Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

Gene Pelham: Photograph for The Tattoo Artist (1944)

Norman Rockwell: The Tattoo Artist (1944)

Reference Photograph: Marriage Counselor (1963)

Norman Rockwell: Marriage Counselor (1963)

Reference Photographs: The Problem We All Live With (1964)

Norman Rockwell: The Problem We All Live With (1964)

Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) became known as one of the most famous illustrators of his generation through his narrative paintings done in a readily recognizable naturalistic style, which appeared in national magazines reaching millions of readers. Born in 1894 on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, he left high school to study at the National Academy of Design and later the Art Students League of New York. By the age of eighteen he was already a published artist specializing in children’s illustration and had become a regular contributor to magazines such as Boys’ Life, the Boy Scouts of America monthly magazine, where he was soon named art director. In 1916 he painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post, beginning a forty-seven-year relationship that resulted in 323 covers and was the centerpiece of his career.

To create many of his iconic, quintessentially American paintings, most of which served as magazine covers, Norman Rockwell worked from carefully staged reference photographs that are now on view for the first time, alongside his paintings in Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. The exhibition, which will be on view at the Brooklyn Museum from November 19, 2010, through April 10, 2011.

In his early career, Rockwell saw photographs as “a dishonorable crutch for lazy draftsmen,” but once he surrendered to the camera’s charms, photography transformed his art.  Beginning in the late 1930s, Rockwell adopted photography as a tool to bring his illustration ideas to life in studio sessions. Rockwell relied on others to operate the camera; he focussed on posing his models. He created numerous photographs for each new subject, sometimes capturing complete compositions and, at other times, combining separate pictures of individual elements. Over the forty years that he used photographs as his guide, he worked with many skilled photographers, particularly Gene Pelham, Bill Scovill, and Louis Lamone.

American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell

Slide Show: Norman Rockwell/Behind the Camera

(Please Click Image to View Slide Show)

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