Everyone knows about “Rosie the Riveter."
But few know that it was photographer and illustrator Norman Rockwell who brought her to prominence. "Rosie" is just one of his many iconic works – over his career, Rockwell was an integral part of the American popular art scene.
The Columbia Museum of Art will bring some of Norman Rockwell’s well known photographs, drawings and paintings to the public in “Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera,” featuring 50 photographs that the artist used for inspiration as well as 16 of his original paintings and drawings. The exhibition will Oct. 17 and run through Jan. 18, 2015.
“What’s particularly special about Rockwell is the way he captured feelings about American life,” said Dickson Monk, CMA communications manager.
Rockwell was known for painting realistic scenes of everyday America and spent the greater part of his career as the cover artist for the “Saturday Evening Post,” staging photographs and converting them into illustrations for the magazine. His covers were used in the magazine for over 40 years. Besides the covers, Rockwell used a range of mediums to tell his stories, including story illustrations, advertising campaigns, posters and books.
“One of the main things we hope people take away from the exhibit is Rockwell’s great artistic process,” Monk said. “His specific accuracy and detail made him stand out as a great story teller.”
Rockwell was a perfectionist in his art, carefully staging the models and composition of his photographs until it was ready for illustration.
“We want to show that there’s a lot more behind Norman Rockwell than most people generally think of,” Monk said.
Rockwell is well known for his paintings like “Freedom from Want” and “Rosie the Riveter,” but the museum wants to show that Rockwell had a talent in bringing out a story in each of his illustrations, even the lesser-known ones.
Rockwell composed his illustrations to deliver a specific message, and accordingly, a part of the exhibition is devoted to his work on the civil rights movement. Rockwell’s work evolved late in his career to focus on themes concerning poverty, race and the Vietnam War.
“There’s a lot of very powerful social messages that he was making that a lot of people don’t really think about,” Monk said.
The CMA is the final stop on the national tour of the Norman Rockwell exhibition. The photographs and paintings used in the exhibition are part of the collections from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Guided tours of the exhibition will start Saturday, Oct. 18. All are held Saturdays at 1 p.m. and are free with museum membership or admission.