Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

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Review

of an Exhibit

by Chantara Ellis

Published on March 28, 2011 , Modified on March 29, 2011

  • Description:

    The recent exhibit, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, at the Brooklyn Museum provides the audience with a rare look at the photographs the artist used to create his drawings. I think this exhibition is successful in showing the audience how Norman Rockwell worked, the stages of his process from sketches, photographic studies, and his final illustrations. Though this exhibition can be seen as just a retrospect of the artist’s work, a larger message of how this artist was able to create and capture “American life” of the mid 1900’s is phenomenal. For this exhibition, I think the museum’s intended audience were all age ranges, however, this exhibition most likely resonated more with an older crowd, those familiar with Norman Rockwell’s work for the Saturday Evening Post.

    Accompanying the photographs and final illustrations in this exhibit are drawings, magazine tear sheets, photographic equipment, archival letters, and an introductory film. All of these elements help the audience vision the artistic process and convey the importance of the artist’s choice in color, props, facial expressions/poses, and perspective. From this exhibition, one gains the sense that Norman Rockwell was a very animated man who enjoyed bringing humor into his artworks. The artist also chose themes and props that were relevant to the time they were created and often universal enough that viewers could recognize and associate themselves within the themes. Norman Rockwell did not shy away from controversial events, and created iconic images such as The Problem We All Live With, depicting a young African American girl being escorted to an all-white elementary school. This controversial image, created for Look magazine was a departure from Rockwell’s idealized images of American and a move to more social issues.

    I enjoyed this exhibit and learned a lot about the artist’s process. I think this exhibition can be seen as relevant to anyone who has grown up or had family who grew up in American during the artist’s production of illustrations. Norman Rockwell has always imbued a sense of nostalgia for me and this exhibition was endearing as well as informative. The Brooklyn Museum is successful in supporting the main idea of this exhibition by providing online resources in the form of a “Teachers Packet” that can be used with a range of ages and draws attention to the artist’s process and artistic choices.

    The layout of the this exhibit is a bit confusing, a series of rooms with a hallway running the full length of all rooms on one side and some rooms joining into others on the opposite side. It is very easy to skip a room and the artwork is not organized in a familiar way, neither chronologically or themed. The labels for each piece are very short and only document the title and date. There are a few labels throughout the exhibit highlighting the artist’s choices of materials, themes, poses, and actors. These labels highlight the importance of each choice made by the artist and describe his process in further detail. The last room of this exhibit contains his more controversial pieces, and I wish that more attention had been paid to them. However, overall this exhibition is fun and entertaining, celebrating the iconic work of Norman Rockwell.

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