STOCKBRIDGE, MASS.- The Norman Rockwell Museum has added a rare, politically-charged painting by the artist Norman Rockwell to its current exhibition "Hometown Hero, Citizen of the World: Rockwell in Stockbridge. " "The Right to Know," a 1968 painting which presented critical commentary on the Vietnam War, will take its place alongside an equally insightful, often socially-conscious collection of work featured in the exhibition (on view through October 31, 2004).
According to exhibition curator Linda Pero, "’The Right to Know’ was a courageous work that revealed Rockwell’s humanitarian position on the war, risky at the time, and particularly for someone who had crafted his image almost as finely as his paintings. Additionally, the painting may be more relevant now than it was then in its message to the American people. The fact that it is an election year makes it an even more persuasive image."
The oil-on-canvas painting, commissioned to accompany an editorial for "Look" magazine, would be Rockwell’s last political work. The illustration, which featured a group of concerned citizens, was completed during a period in which the artist turned his attention from idealistic subject matter towards more realistic, often controversial themes. Growing dissent against the war in Vietnam in which 16,000 American soldiers had died, fueled the powerful political statement of Rockwell’s painting, on the right of American citizens to know the reasons behind its government’s actions. The text which accompanied the illustration read: "We are the governed, but we govern too. Assume our love of country, for it is only the simplest of self-love. Worry little about our strength, for we have our history to show for it. And because we are strong, there are others who have hope. But watch closely from now on, for those of us who stand here mean to watch those we put in the seats of power. And listen to us, you who lead, for we are listening harder for the truth that you have not always offered us. Your voice must be ours, and ours speaks of cities that are not safe, and of wars we do not want, of poor in a land of plenty, and of a world that will not take the shape our arms would give it. We are not fierce, and the truth will not frighten us. Trust us, for we have given you our trust. We are the governed, remember, but we govern too."
The painting is being loaned to the exhibition courtesy of Berry-Hill Galleries, New York City.