Norman Rockwell was Americas best known and best-loved illustrator for over six decades of the 20th century. Astonishingly prolific, he is best-known for the 322 covers he created for the Saturday Evening Post; but he painted countless other magazine illustrations and advertisements, capturing images of everyday American life with a humour and power of observation that spoke directly to the public, whose love for his work never wavered.
These good-natured, often very funny, occasionally sweetly sentimental images picturing America as he wished it to be, rather than as it perhaps was, gave rise to an adjective, Rockwellesque, which in some critics minds became something of a dirty word. But his output was not all sugar and spice he recorded political events, portrayed presidents, and on occasion painted searing images in support of the civil rights movement.
Although Rockwell himself was happy to be described as an illustrator, his illustrations were executed with considerable technical skill in oils, and these original paintings have increased dramatically in value since his death in 1978. Recent years have seen a critical reassessment of his work. In 1999, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl led the way with his bold statement in ArtNews: Rockwell is terrific. Its become too tedious to pretend he isnt.
This exhibition is be the first of his original works in this country. It includes all 322 covers of the Saturday Evening Post, created between 1916 and 1963, along with illustrations for advertisements, magazines and books providing a comprehensive look at his career.
Over thirty years after his death, Englands oldest public art gallery offers visitors in the UK their very first chance to discover the art behind the adjective. Norman Rockwells America is on view from 15 Dec 2010 - 27 March 2011 at the Dulwich Picture Gallery