Norman Rockwell Museum Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA

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Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Route 183
Stockbridge, MA 01262
413-298-4100 x 221


Pat Oliphant: Editorial Cartoons from the Nixon and Clinton Eras
Through May 31, 2021

Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist Patrick Oliphant was described in 1990 by the New York Times as “the most influential editorial cartoonist” of his time. Spanning more than sixty years, Oliphant’s finely-tuned drawings have cast a clear eye on global politics, culture, the economy, and scandals, and his caricatures of American presidents and other powerful leaders are world renowned. In addition to thousands of daily editorial cartoons, he has also produced personal works, including dozens of bronze sculptures, works on paper, and paintings.

This important collection of original works by Oliphant has been generously donated by the Louis and Jodi Atkin Family, devoted collectors who compiled the largest and most significant body of the artist’s work in private hands. The Oliphant collection features three prominent aspects of the artist’s work⸺his editorial drawings from the Nixon and Clinton years as well as personal drawings, paintings, and sculptures. The donor intends this collection to serve as a means of highlighting political art as a powerful, persuasive, and inspiring form of visual communication. In addition, the collection invites consideration of the role of political illustration in inspiring dialogue, which is of critical importance today as in the past. We are honored to showcase the work of this exceptional illustration master and to preserve and share this important collection for generations to come.

Since the late nineteenth century, the editorial cartoon has played a provocative role in presidential politics, countering partisan advertising with irreverence. Australian-born Pulitzer Prize winner Pat Oliphant (born 1935) hones a distinctive, repeatable caricature of each incoming president. When each fails to live up to expectations, those exaggerated figures begin to age, sag, shrink, weaken, or bloat. Oliphant has summarized his cartoon depictions of each president since Lyndon Johnson in a series of bronze sculptures. His images of Richard Nixon as a haunting and malevolent Napoleon, Gerald Ford as Band-Aided hollow mask, Jimmy Carter as an insignificant miniature, and George H. W. Bush as a wizened horseshoe player, remind us of the powerful impact of satiric portraiture.

About the Patrick Oliphant
Born on July 24, 1935, Patrick Oliphant was raised in a small cabin outside of Adelaide, Ontario, Canada; he attended a one-room schoolhouse and went on to complete his formal education at a local high school. His interest in drawing was sparked by his father’s work as a government draftsman and he decided at an early age that he wanted to become a journalist. Uninterested in pursuing higher education and still a teenager, in 1952 he began working as a copyboy for Adelaide’s evening newspaper, The News, which had recently been inherited by a young Rupert Murdoch. The following year, Oliphant moved to a rival publication, The Advertiser, where he worked as a press artist, and by 1955 he was drawing editorial cartoons.

Frustrated by The Advertiser’s conservative editorial policies, Oliphant had his eyes set on working in the United States. Upon completion of a five-year commitment to the publication, he landed a job with the Denver Post after submitting an exceptional portfolio that singled him out over fifty other applicants. Within a year of joining the Post, his work was disseminated internationally by the Los Angeles Times Syndicate. Oliphant’s reputation grew quickly and in 1967 he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize.

In 1975, Oliphant moved to the Washington Star and five years later switched to Universal Press Syndicate. When the Star went out of business in 1981, he decided to remain independent, thus becoming the first political cartoonist in the twentieth century from a home-town newspaper to to work independently. By 1983 Oliphant was the most widely syndicated American cartoonist, with works appearing in more than five hundred publications. In addition to the Pulitzer Prize, Oliphant has been recognized with numerous awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, National Cartoonists Society, National Wildlife Federation, American Civil Liberties Union, and the Washington Journalism Review. He retired from an active illustration career in 2015 due to challenges with his eyesight.

Norman Rockwell: Telling Stories
Through May 31, 2021

“Many illustrators of fiction look through a story to find the most dominant or dramatic incident, and illustrate that. I prefer to discover the atmosphere of a story—the feeling behind it—and then to express this basic quality.”
—Norman Rockwell

Though Norman Rockwell preferred cover work to any other type of assignment, story illustration makes up a large body of the artist’s work. Narrative texts by a wide range of authors, both famous and lesser known, were the basis for thousands of illustrations. His interest in characterization and detail was perfectly suited to story illustration, which enhanced and expanded upon the written word.

“An illustration is merely a scene from a story,” Rockwell observed. “The characters and setting are fully developed by the author. So the illustrator has only to follow the story closely. His inspiration comes from the words, not, as in a Saturday Evening Post cover, from himself.”

Young people’s adventure stories were an appropriate beginning for Rockwell, whose earliest illustrations appeared in Boys’ Life and other children’s publications when he was just a teenager. Through the 1940s, his art for published stories captivated countless readers of the Post, American Magazine, Ladies’ Home Journal and Woman’s Home Companion.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Rockwell devoted himself more fully to cover illustration and accepted relatively few story assignments. But in the 1960s and 1970s, he created a series of journalistic pictures for Look, departing from his fictional style. Politics, human rights, and man’s journey to the moon would eventually become his subjects, representing a turning point for the artist in an ever-changing world.

About the Artist
Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.

Norman Rockwell: The Art of Persuasion
February 4 through May 31, 2021

“No matter how beautiful an advertising picture may be, if it does not sell the product which it advertises, it is a failure.”

—Norman Rockwell

While taking classes at New York’s Art Students League in 1911 and 1912, Rockwell made a pact with his classmates “never to do advertising jobs,” which they considered more commercial than magazine illustration. But the artist admitted that this promise was quickly broken. Rockwell’s narrative style lent itself to advertising, and George Lorimer, editor of The Saturday Evening Post, advised him to charge double the fee that he received for a Post cover.

Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom explores the indelible odyssey of humanity’s greatest ideals.
Through May 31, 2021

Returning to Stockbridge following a six city tour that has taken Rockwell’s art and the work of other creators to New York, Detroit, Washington DC, Normandy, France, Houston, and Denver, Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom explores the indelible odyssey of the Four Freedoms, humanity’s greatest and sometimes most elusive ideals.

The power of images to shape cultural narratives is revealed in this dynamic and evolving exhibition, which invites viewers to trace the origins and legacy of the Four Freedoms from the trials of the Great Depression and World War II to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, and the call for freedom today across racial, gender, ethnic, and religious lines. Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom inspires conversation about our most pressing social concerns through the lens of art and history, and invites us to consider how we can become allies in the creation of a more humane world.

Rockwell’s most iconic works, including the legendary Four Freedoms paintings inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s vision for a peaceful post-war world; the artist’s personal plea for unity in The Golden Rule; his call for human rights in The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi; and his petition for truth and transparency in The Right to Know reflect the artist’s desire to make a difference. More than forty Rockwell artworks are joined by paintings, drawings, photography, and writings of artists working across the decades for the cause of freedom, including Dorothea Lange, Gordon Parks, Arthur Rothstein, Mead Schaeffer, Arthur Szyk, Martha Sawyers, Langston Hughes, Thomas Lea, Boris Artzybasheff, and Denys Wortman, among others. Reimagining the Four Freedoms, a multi-media exhibition component, presents thought-provoking perspectives by forty contemporary artists who explore society’s hopes and aspirations for a free and just world. Highlighted among them is a suite of striking recreations by Maurice Pops Peterson, who presents a vision of Rockwell’s art for a new age. Also on view is The Unity Project, a series of original poster illustrations by noted artists Mai Ly Degnan, Rudy Gutierrez, Anita Kunz, Tim O’Brien, Whitney Sherman, and Yuko Shimizu that are designed to inspire Americans to participate in the democratic process by voting.

The Four Freedoms in History
The notion of the Four Freedoms has inspired dozens of national constitutions across the globe, yet Franklin D. Roosevelt’s declaration that the United States was willing to fight for Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear—now considered a sublime moment in rhetorical history—did not turn out to be the immediate triumph envisioned by the President. As the nation found itself sliding ever closer to direct involvement in World War II, the underlying meaning of his words captured surprisingly little attention among Americans. Following his January 6, 1941, Annual Message to Congress, government surveys showed that only half of Americans were aware of FDR’s Four Freedoms and that less than a quarter could identify them correctly. Moreover, many had no clear idea why the United States was being called upon to enter the war.

It would take the continuous efforts of the White House, the Office of War Information, and scores of patriotic artists to give the Four Freedoms new life. Most prominent among those was Norman Rockwell, whose images became a national sensation in early 1943 when they were first published in The Saturday Evening Post. Roosevelt’s words and Rockwell’s artworks soon became inseparable in the public consciousness, with millions of reproductions publicizing the Second War Loan Drive bringing the Four Freedoms directly into American homes and workplaces. When Eleanor Roosevelt convinced United Nations delegates to include these ideals in its postwar statement of human rights, FDR’s words—now forever entwined with Rockwell’s images—achieved immortality.

Born amid the turmoil of World War II, the Four Freedoms have since become one of its greatest legacies, a testament to the paramount importance of human rights and dignity. Brought forward by one of America’s greatest presidents and immortalized by one of its most beloved artists more than seventy-five years ago, the Four Freedoms continue to inspire, resonating across generations as strongly today as they did in their time.

This exhibition is divided into five sections, you can learn more about each:

– The War Generation
– Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms
– The Artistic Response
– Rockwell’s Four Freedoms
– Freedom’s Legacy

Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom is an exhibition organized by Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.

Major support has been generously provided by Jay Alix | The Alix Foundation and George Lucas Family Foundation, and by national presenting sponsor The Travelers Companies, Inc. Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor, Michael Bakwin, Helen Bing, Elephant Rock Foundation, Ford Foundation, Heritage Auctions, Annie and Ned Lamont, National Endowment for the Arts, and Ted Slavin. Media sponsors include: Curtis Licensing, a division of The Saturday Evening Post, and Norman Rockwell Family Agency.

The Unity Project: Art that Inspires us to VOTE.
Through May 31, 2021

The Unity Project calls upon all Americans to uphold democracy by voting.

This dynamic digital poster campaign aims to inspire citizens to vote. Striking images by the nation’s top illustrators work to establish unity and belonging among all Americans, who share in common the right to elect a government of the people.

Norman Rockwell Museum steps into the public square in a new way with a unification project in support of democracy—a rally to vote campaign highlighting original concepts by six leading contemporary illustrators commissioned by the Museum to create motivational art in the great illustrated poster tradition.

Compelling works by Mai Ly Degnan, Rudy Gutierrez, Anita Kunz, Tim O’Brien, Whitney Sherman, and Yuko Shimizu reflect each artist’s personal voice and a diverse range of artistic approaches.

Pops Peterson: Rockwell Revisited
Through May 31, 2021

In 2015, Berkshire-based artist and writer Pops Peterson debuted Reinventing Rockwell, a series of artworks reimagining mid-century illustrations by Norman Rockwell in a manner reflective of today’s times. Celebrating America’s rich diversity and embracing Rockwell’s sense of humanity, Peterson has created images that envision social change and express his desire for a positive, inclusive, and just world.

Pops Peterson wishes to express appreciation to his talented team, including Cassandra Sohn, John Clarke, Judy Seaman, Matt Finnerty, Rob Grien, Cindy Atkins, Joseph Cisneros, Stephen G. Donaldson, Isha Nelson and Mont Vert Studio.

Launched at the High School of Music and Art in New York, Peterson’s artistic education continued at Pratt Institute and Columbia University. His writings have been published in Andy Warhol’s Interview, Essence, The Village Voice and The New York Times, and he has authored stage plays and screenplays for television and film. The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination named Peterson its first Artist in Residence for which he lectures annually at the Fair Housing and Civil Rights Conference. His painting, “Freedom from Shame,” inspired the Massachusetts Office on Disability’s statewide art competition, “Breaking Barriers,” which was presented in the Massachusetts State House in 2017.

Peterson is the owner and general manager of SEVEN salon.spa in Stockbridge, MA, a business established with his husband Mark Johnson that is situated directly across the street from Rockwell’s former home. Freedom from What? (I Can’t Breathe) has travelled across the nation in Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom, and we are honored to share a broader selection of images from this impactful series. Peterson’s work is also on view at Sohn Fine Art in Lenox, MA.

Reimagining the Four Freedoms
Through May 31, 2021

How might notions of freedom, as presented by Roosevelt and Rockwell during the World War II era, be reinterpreted for our times? What does freedom look like today?

Inspired by the legacies of Roosevelt and Rockwell, Reimagining the Four Freedoms is a juried exhibition inviting contemporary artists to consider two questions:

• How might notions of freedom, as presented in Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s and Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, be interpreted for our times?

• What does freedom look like today?

This installation represents the diverse spectrum of responses received from artists across the nation and in Canada. Their compelling artworks in all media give voice to their observations and concerns about freedoms found and lost in our times.
Read the Press Release for Reimagining the Four Freedoms

Norman Rockwell: Murder in Mississippi
Through May 31, 2021

In 1964, after The Problem We All Live With ran in Look magazine, Norman Rockwell received many letters criticizing his choice of subject, but irate opinions did not stop him from pursuing his course. In the 1965 painting Murder in Mississippi, he illustrated the Philadelphia, Mississippi, slaying of civil rights workers Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney.

The anatomy of this particular work illuminates Rockwell’s process. Veering from his habit of working on five or six projects at a time, Rockwell ignored other commissions. The result was an intensive five-week session in which he produced charcoal preliminaries, an oil color study, and the large final painting.

In an interview later in his life, Rockwell recalled earlier having been directed by The Saturday Evening Post to remove a black person from a group picture because the magazine’s policy dictated showing black people only in service industry jobs. Later, freed from such restraints, Rockwell seemed to look for opportunities to correct editorial prejudices inadvertently reflected in previous work. The Problem We All Live With and Murder in Mississippi ushered in that new era.

In the beginning of 1965, Rockwell began work on an illustration for Look about the June 21,1964, murders of three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Michael Schwerner and his chief aide, James Chaney, were in Philadelphia to assist with training summer volunteers, one of whom was Andrew Goodman. Schwerner had been targeted by the Klan for his organization of a black boycott of white-owned businesses and for his attempts to register blacks
in Meriden.

Hearing of a Klan attack against blacks and of arson at Mount Zion Church, the three men drove to the site. On their return to the Meriden office of Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), they were taken into custody by Deputy Sheriff Price, by some accounts for speeding and by others for supposedly setting the fire. After releasing them later that night, Price tailed them. Once outside of town, Klansmen intercepted them and hustled them into Price’s car. They were driven to a remote location and shot point blank. Their bodies were then taken to the farm of one of the Klansmen, dumped into a dam site, and covered by tons of dirt pushed over them by tractor.

Rockwell conceived Murder in Mississippi as a horizontal composition to run across two pages. The young men would be pictured on the left page and Philadelphia Deputy Price and the posse of Klansmen wielding sticks (we later learned all were armed with rifles and shotguns) on the right. His next idea was to do two separate vertical pictures— the first showing the civil rights workers and the second showing the Mount Zion Church. Rockwell hired local architect Tom Arienti to draft a church steeple, but later decided against including the church.

On July 16, 1964, The New York Times ran a story titled “A 2nd Body Is Found in the Mississippi.” A saved copy of the story, found among Rockwell’s reference materials, establishes that he had the June 21, 1964, murders in mind long before beginning work on his painting in March 1965.

As no one had yet reported the exact details of the murder when Rockwell began his painting, he borrowed from Hector Rondon’s 1963 Pulitzer Prize–winning news photo “Aid from the Padre” for the pose of Michael Schwerner holding James Chaney. Rockwell later wrote a note to himself to remember to tell Look art director Allen Hurlburt he had used Rondon’s photo.

Before he began work on his painting, Rockwell compiled notes on the physical traits and clothing of the three young men, the circumstances of their abduction, and the brutal details of their murders. Additional details about the day and the place the three men were murdered were recorded.

Abbreviated versions of Rockwell’s handwritten notes were typed. The parenthetical remark, “I have not tried to make absolute likenesses,” and the use of stationery indicates they were probably intended for Look art director Allen Hurlburt.

Found among his references, this news clip reveals that Rockwell originally considered showing the Klansmen as individuals. Just as he had compiled notes about the victims, police photos provided him with information about the Klansmen’s physical traits.

Rockwell’s son Jarvis served as one of his models. Rockwell’s studio, ordinarily bathed in north light, was darkened with shades. Spotlights were brought in to create a nighttime effect. Additional photos were taken of Jarvis Rockwell and Oliver McCary with McCary appearing more wounded.

Blood—human blood, at Rockwell’s insistence—was procured from a concealed source and applied to a shirt that represented the shirt Michael Schwerner was wearing when he was killed. Rockwell himself wore the shirt for the posing, probably not wanting to ask anyone else to wear it.

On April 14, Rockwell sent his final painting to Look. On the 29th, Rockwell received word that Look had decided to use his color study rather than the final painting. Three years later, Rockwell reflected that by the time he had finished the final painting, “all the anger that was in the sketch had gone out of it.”

Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career. Learn more…

Through May 31, 2021

For nearly 50 years, millions of Americans brought Norman Rockwell’s art into their homes, enjoying the artist’s Saturday Evening Post covers while seated in their favorite chairs, surrounded by their belongings in the company of their families. This intimate connection with Rockwell’s art made his images a part of the fabric of American lives. This comprehensive exhibition of original Saturday Evening Post cover tear sheets features each of Norman Rockwell’s illustrations for the publication, created between 1916 and 1963.

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