By week five we had surpassed the attendance for our Andy Warhol exhibition by the same time, and the numbers keep growing.
—Executive Director Stephen Borys
The exhibition American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell , at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, has been so popular that the gallery just announced it will extend its hours of operation for the month of May.
The gallery will be open Fridays until 9:00 p.m. to accommodate the numbers. The exhibit closes Sunday, May 27.
"By week five we had surpassed the
attendance for our Andy Warhol exhibition by the same time, and the
numbers keep growing." stated Executive Director Stephen Borys.
The WAG is the only Canadian stop for this impressive Norman Rockwell retrospect.
Review: Re-examining Norman Rockwell at the Winnipeg Art Gallery - Alison Gillmor
Norman Rockwell, the American painter once dismissed as a mere
illustrator and a hopeless sentimentalist, has been undergoing a
critical re-examination lately.
A blockbuster exhibition of his
work, including major paintings and 323 Saturday Evening Post magazine
covers from the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., opens today at
the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
Rockwell's skill has never been
questioned. (Artists Andy Warhol and Willem De Kooning loved his paint
handling and graphic sense.) The new appreciation for Rockwell goes
beyond technical ability, though.
"Girl at Mirror", Norman Rockwell, 1954, Oil on canvas, 31 ½" x 29 ½" (Licensed by Curtis Publishing)
Many postmodern critics started by
admitting that hey, maybe the fact that a lot of people actually enjoy
the man's work is not a bad thing.
Rockwell faithfully chronicled the American scene from World War One to the civil rights movement, from presidents to the guys down at the small-town barbershop. And he did it with unfailing generosity.
Looking at a girl wistfully comparing herself to a Hollywood glamour photo, for instance, or a young wife shut out by her husband's newspaper at the breakfast table, Rockwell brings unusual empathy and insight into the situations of women and girls.
Critics also point to his genius for visual storytelling, his ability to craft that one moment that expresses so many more moments. Rockwell staged elaborate photo tableaux, worked away at multiple preparatory sketches and then whittled everything down into a final painting.
His best pieces are marvels of telling detail, lively characterization and compressed visual energy: a mortified teenage boy getting the "facts of life" talk from his father, a respectable businessman playing hooky at a swimming hole on a hot summer day.
No Swimming, Norman Rockwell, 1921, oil on canvas, 25 ¼" x 22 ¼"
(Licensed by Curtis Publishing)
Rockwell distilled the everyday into a potent blend of realism and idealism, this being a characteristically American mix that runs right through the nation's art and literature. So, yes, Rockwell does have a line in what he called his "Santa down the chimney" material - the boy scouts and the girls in party dresses, the puppies and the pipe-smoking grandfathers. He can be hokey -- sometimes too hokey - but he's never false. He's just darned optimistic.
There are problems with Rockwell land, of course. A Post policy that insisted African-Americans be shown only in subservient roles means that Rockwell's "cross-section" of America is essentially segregated. In the 1960s, when Rockwell began working for the more liberal Look magazine, he ventured into deeper issues of racism and social justice, almost as if he were atoning for his earlier silence.
I remember the time when Rockwell was pegged as a saccharine hack, and I've watched, first with amazement and then with interest, as his reputation has turned around. Big, broad and battened with information, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell
is the kind of comprehensive show that lets you figure it out for yourself. I figured out that I like him, I really like him.
Alison Gillmor, CBC Reviewer (CBC)