March 13, 2020, Mystic, CT—Mystic Museum of Art (MMoA) is pleased to present Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post Covers: Tell Me a Story, organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. MMoA will host a gala exhibition preview on June 13. The exhibition will be open to the public from June 18 through September 12.
The exhibition will present all 323 of the legendary covers, including 321 unique images, created for The Saturday Evening Post by the renowned American painter and illustrator, Norman Rockwell (1984-1978). In doing so, the exhibition brings together two giants of American cultural history. For nearly 200 years, The Saturday Evening Post has chronicled “American history in the making.” For nearly half a century Norman Rockwell captivated the American public by the sheer visual appeal, historic detail, and narrative brilliance of the covers he created for it.
The exhibition will furthermore highlight the renovation of MMoA’s historic galleries and its expansion as a major exhibiting institution. “MMoA already had an important collection of American art. Now, the capacity to work with an institution of the Norman Rockwell Museum’s stature puts exceptional exhibitions of national importance within our reach,” commented Susan Fisher, MMoA’s Executive Director, “which means we can offer them to those who live here, and those who visit.”
Norman Percival Rockwell is considered by many be one of America’s greatest artists. Born in New York City on February 3, 1894, he always wanted to be an illustrator. He left public school at the age of 14 to attend the Chase Art School and went on to study at the prestigious National Academy of Design, and then, the more progressive Art Students League. At the League, he worked with such famous artists as George Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty.
It was a propitious time for an aspiring illustrator. The “Golden Age of Illustration” was a period of unprecedented excellence in book and magazine illustration, spanning the decades before and after the turn of the 20th Century typified by the Industrial Revolution. Technical advances in papermaking and the reproduction of art fed the voracious appetite of a growing urban middle class for affordable art images. Artists found employment and inspiration in narrative graphic art, among them Howard Pyle, Maxfield Parrish, J.C. Leyendecker, N.C. Wyeth, Frederick Remington, and Edward Curtis.
In the midst of this burgeoning art market, Rockwell won his first important commission when he was just 18: an illustration for Carl H. Claudy’s Tell me Why: Stories about Mother Nature. It was the beginning of a profession that he honed devotedly for the next 65 years.
The young Rockwell realized another dream when his art was published by the Boy Scouts of America’s Boys’ Life, and again when he became the publication’s art editor in 1913. In 1916, with the assistance of cartoonist Clyde Forsythe (with whom he shared a studio) Rockwell successfully submitted his first cover painting for The Saturday Evening Post: Mother’s Day Off. He was only 22.
It would be difficult to overstate the importance of this achievement. From the early years of the century to the 1960s, The Saturday Evening Post was one of the most widely circulated and influential magazines in America. Its rich mixture of fiction, non-fiction, cartoons, and features reached millions of homes every week. It would be hard to imagine a more popular or versatile setting for Rockwell’s brilliantly narrative art. He took the opportunity seriously. Throughout his long career, Rockwell rarely took vacations from his studio. He worked meticulously from props and models, taking up to six months to create a single cover painting.
Rockwell’s earnest and unpretending attitude to his work also characterized his subject matter. “I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed” he reflected. He loved looking at the people around him: middle class children, families, and adults, playing, working, visiting a doctor or fixing a flat tire. He had an eye for everyday settings that his audience could recognize and identify with; viewers could easily fill in the narratives suggested by his images. By turns humorous and deeply moving, Rockwell’s subjects found an enthusiastic public. According to The Saturday Evening Post, his work elevated the magazine’s popularity, helping raise its subscription base to 6,900,000 nationwide by 1960.