Illustration Collection

The Norman Rockwell Museum is expanding its collection beyond Norman Rockwell to build a collection of art of other illustrators. Building a collection of original illustration art will establish the Museum as a premier repository for this significant aspect of material culture and visual communication.

Illustration Art Collecting Policy

Placing Rockwell in Context

For more than a decade, the Norman Rockwell Museum has provided a context for Norman Rockwell’s contributions to art, commerce, and culture by mounting ongoing exhibitions that speak to the significance and impact of illustration art in our world. Diverse, educational, and thought-provoking, changing exhibitions have featured original imagery by hundreds of illustrators, both historical and contemporary. These exhibitions have drawn critical and popular praise, have attracted substantial visitation, and have been enjoyed by expanded audiences while on tour at other museum venues throughout the nation.

The Norman Rockwell Museum now endeavors to place Norman Rockwell’s art firmly within the context of American art by seeking to preserve and collect illustration works representing the visual cultural narrative of 19th and 20th Century America.

Building a broader collection of original works by an expanded spectrum of illustrators would:

  • honor Norman Rockwell’s commitment to his beloved profession by maintaining and presenting important works that might otherwise be lost
  • establish the Museum’s leadership in the vanguard of preservation and interpretation relating to this important aspect of American visual culture
  • provide a meaningful representation of objects that would enhance the Museum’s ability to curate and mount exhibitions froms its own collections
  • prove to be a significant resource for students, scholars, and other museums through greater accessibility to original illustration art

A Broadened Collecting Framework: Establishing Guidelines

The Norman Rockwell Museum’s enhanced collecting framework will draw inspiration from Norman Rockwell’s own artistic influences, intentions, and the breadth of his unparalleled career. In the initial stages of the acquisition of original art, gifts and bequests of artworks that maintain the highest standards of quality and excellence in distinct and established categories will be sought.

Norman Rockwell’s Artistic Inspirations

A gifted artist and masterful storyteller, Norman Rockwell consistently found inspiration in the work of other artists from within the field of illustration and from the world of fine art. A collection of original images by artists whom he admired would provide important insights into Rockwell’s artistic aspirations and process. Works may include those created by:

  • Old Masters whom he studied and referred to throughout his career
  • Revered art instructors, including George Bridgman (1865-1943) and Thomas Fogarty (1873-1938), who guided his development at the Art Students League
  • Illustrators whom he admired, including Howard Pyle (1853-1911), J. C. Leyendecker (1874-1951), Arthur Burdett Frost (1851-1928), Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911),
  • Mead Schaeffer (1898-1980), Dean Cornwell (1892-1960), and Alfred Charles Parker (1906-1985) among many others

Norman Rockwell’s Contemporaries

During Norman Rockwell’s seven-decade career, the activity in publishing and the proliferation of adult and children’s books, family magazines, youth magazines, and humor magazines provided a forum for an illustrious group of artists to fulfill a diversity of assignments on demand. The outlets for illustrators were extensive and lucrative at the time. In fact, there were more professional opportunities than there were artists, and editors and publishers competed for the limited supply of fine illustrators available to them. With the ability to pay high fees for art, and with their vast circulations and advertising revenues, magazines provided the most spectacular showcase for illustrators.

A collection of works spanning Rockwell’s lifetime and professional career would illuminate evolutionary shifts in the style, content, technology, and reach of published imagery. The power of realism and influential trends in fine art, applied art, and publishing that resulted in the movement toward new approaches will provide an inclusive look at 20th century popular art and culture.

Cover illustrations, story illustrations, and advertising images by noted artists for prominent periodicals of Rockwell’s day are being sought. Artistically and technically diverse, the collection will expand to include representative stylistic approaches, from narrative realism to works emphasizing the elements of style or trends in the world of fine art.

Works in the following genres are being sought:

  • Reflections on society and cultural trends
  • Visual commentary on urban, suburban, and rural life
  • Icons of American visual culture
  • Images that reflect a sense of national identity
  • Artworks representing significant historical events and individuals
  • Influential works that represent viable innovations in the field
  • Images that reflect upon the larger world of art
  • Romantic depictions of adventure and chivalry
  • Illustrated posters
  • Narrative imagery for the young
  • Decorative illustrations
  • Humorous illustrations
  • Images for popular fiction
  • Signature product endorsements

The acquisition of works by Norman Rockwell’s associates and fellow illustrators in New Rochelle, New York, and Arlington, Vermont, and those by illustrators of The Saturday Evening Post would provide outstanding educational and interpretive opportunities. These artists include, but are not limited to: Harold Anderson (1894-1973); John Atherton (1900-1950); Franklin Booth (1874-1948); George Brehm (1878-1966); Worth Brehm (1883-1928); Clare Briggs (1875-1930); Nell Brinkley (1886-1944); Daniel Content (1902-1990); Dean Cornwell (1892-1960); John Philip Falter (1910-1982); Victor Clyde Forsythe (1885-1962); Walter Beach Humphrey (1892-1966); Francis Xavier Leyendecker (1877-1924); Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951); Tom Lovell (1909-1997); Orson Byron Lowell (1871-1956); Gene Pelham (1909-2005); Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma) Moses (1860-1961; Alfred Charles Parker (1906-1985); Edward Penfield (1866-1925); C. Coles Phillips (1880-1927; Frederic Sackrider Remington (1861-1909); Mead Schaeffer (1898-1980); Remington Schuyler (1884-1955); Donald Teague (1897-1991); George T. Tobin (1864-1956); Edmund F. Ward (1892-1990); and Revere Wistehuff (1900-1971).

Contemporary Illustration

The Norman Rockwell Museum is unique in its mission to study and communicate with a worldwide audience the life, art, and spirit of Norman Rockwell in the field of illustration. Preeminent in its focus on this important art form, the Museum offers a vibrant exhibition program that documents and explores the breadth of the field.

Museum exhibitions and programs celebrate the work of outstanding visual artists who have chosen Norman Rockwell’s beloved profession as their own. Diverse and deeply rooted in personal aesthetic and philosophy, their compelling images engage the eye and the imagination while satisfying the needs of commerce in its many facets. Their art defines and comments upon society, enhances our appreciation of ideas, challenges our perspectives, and profoundly influences our rapidly expanding visual culture.

Many contemporary illustrators possess vast stores of work that beg to be preserved, as few venues are committed to caring for or exhibiting works by living illustrators. Finished artworks and their related studies, reference materials, correspondence, and first uses by noted contemporary artists working in the publication formats that Norman Rockwell explored will be sought for inclusion in an expanded collection.  These include:

  • magazine illustrations, including cover art and story illustrations
  • art created for advertising
  • book illustrations
  • portraits created for publication
  • caricatures and humorous illustrations
  • illustrator’s sketchbooks

Norman Rockwell’s own imagery provides a myriad of compelling themes that may help guide the acquisition of contemporary collections. These may include, but are not limited to:

  • 20th Century American life
  • The 20th Century American family
  • The American West
  • 20th Century American history
  • Civil Rights
  • World War I
  • World War II
  • Travel and transportation
  • Communications
  • Industry and invention
  • Stages of life
  • Images of childhood
  • Democratic ideals
  • Freedom
  • Patriotism
  • First Amendment right
  • Religious tolerance
  • Occupations
  • Human values
  • Romance
  • Fashion and lifestyle
  • Sports and pastimes
  • International culture and world issues
  • The worlds of art and illustration
  • Publishing and mass media
  • Urban, suburban, and rural culture
  • Agriculture
  • Heath Care
  • Education
  • Political and the governmental process

Considerations for Collecting: Storage, Condition and Encumbrances

Illustration acquisitions are housed in the art storage area in the Norman Rockwell Museum building, which will provide adequate space for new acquisitions during the initial stage of collecting. Considerations for expanded collections storage space will be explored by Museum staff and board. Collections will be overseen and cared for by members of the Museum’s existing curatorial staff, including the Chief Curator, Curator of the Norman Rockwell collections, Curator of the Rockwell Center, the Manager of Collections and Registration, and the Exhibitions Manager.

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