Visual Culture Studies is the vibrant area of emerging scholarship that explores the impact of imagery in shaping societal conceptions and aspirations across broad cultural categories. The field inspires the navigation of our cultural landscape without the restrictive traditional markers of high and low art, bridging the gap between personal approaches to art and imagery created for mass media. The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies at the Norman Rockwell Museum will work within this broadened integrated framework to document and interpret this significant and under-studied discipline of our American visual culture, the art of illustration.
An artist examined in context is stronger than one who stands alone. Imagine Monet without Impressionism, Picasso without Cubism, and Michelangelo without the Italian Renaissance. An artist is entwined with his times. Those who rise to the pinnacle of their profession stand above their peers, but without their peers, there is no backdrop for appreciating their accomplishment or appraising the redirection of an entire class of artists.
The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies is a program for scholars and professionals, specializing in scholarship in visual illustration arts and American illustrations artists. The Center will create a network and convene a national community of scholars, curators, professors, artists, institutions, museums, libraries, and major collections to engage in visual studies in illustration arts.
The Rockwell Center houses ProjectNORMAN, scholars’ research program, illustration art history library, digital image collection, and collection of original illustration and is the nexus for illustration collections and visual communication studies across America.
Research topics will be encouraged in American illustration, mass media studies, American cultural and visual studies, American popular culture, Norman Rockwell, examination of the influence of mass media in the United States and the “Americanization” of world culture in the 20th century through visual imagery.
It is vital and timely to create this Center. Thousands of images of illustration art are at jeopardy of deterioration if not properly housed and secured by our nation’s museums. Visual literacy is a vital skill in today’s world – illustration art is the foundation of today’s digital world, design, film, animation, the graphic novel, advertising and illustrated literature, and is responsible for shaping and influencing our understanding of culture and society. Illustrators are our visual cultural historians. It is important to give scholarly examination of this vital art form in the making of our culture.
In recent years, art historians have begun to look at art through a cultural lens. The Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies will deepen scholarship not only on Norman Rockwell but on all American illustration. The story of ordinary people and what they were doing during the American Century must be preserved and more deeply understood.