Norman Rockwell is well known for his enduring illustrations of the holidays, which brought good cheer to millions of Americans. In his autobiography My Adventures as an Illustrator , the artist described important memories from his youth that were seminal to his later work.
Of particular importance were Rockwell’s recollections focused on his father reading Charles Dickens stories aloud to his sons in the evening after they finished their homework. Throughout his life, Rockwell would cite the significance of those nightly readings and the influence of Dickens on his art.
This holiday season Norman Rockwell Museum celebrates the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’s birth with a spirited new exhibition that explores the literary giant’s influence on the artist’s work: “Norman Rockwell and the Ghost of Dickens” is on view at the museum through March 4.
“Charles Dickens provided a great lexicon of human experience and personality types for Norman Rockwell to explore,” noted Joyce K. Schiller, PhD, who curated the exhibition. “He also inspired the artist’s portrayal of Dickensian characters throughout his career. Norman Rockwell Museum is pleased to present this lively visual exploration in celebration of the anniversary of Dickens’ birth, on February 7, 1812.”
The exhibition presents a rare opportunity to view a collection of original Rockwell artwork from both the museum and private collections. Highlights include Dickens-inspired drawings from Rockwell’s autobiography; the 1937 Reader’s Digest painting “A merry Christmas to everybody! A happy New Year to all the world!”; and original oil on canvas paintings for such classic Saturday Evening Post covers as “Christmas Trio,” 1923, “Merrie Christmas: Couple Dancing under Mistletoe,” 1928, and “Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit (God Bless Us Everyone),” 1934. Original cover tear sheets and charcoal studies will also be on view, further illustrating the artist’s elaborate process in creating his work.
Rockwell once remarked that “Dickens wrote about the kind of people I paint.” In Rockwell’s Dickens-inspired view of life, his neighbors served as important references for his art, compelling “types” in his visual narratives. A device the artist used in his illustrations, for which he credited the author, was the placement of tragedy and comedy together, believing that when used jointly in a work of art, an image would have a greater impact on its viewers.
In his autobiography Rockwell wrote, “The variety, sadness, horror, happiness, treachery, the twists and turns of life&†in Dickens shocked and delighted me.”
The Norman Rockwell Museum is at 9 Glendale Road. For information, 413-298-4100 or www.nrm.org .