Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

An exhibition organized by Norman Rockwell Museum

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About the Exhibition

Photography has been a benevolent tool for artists from Thomas Eakins and Edgar Degas to David Hockney. And to illustrators, always on the lookout for better ways to meet deadlines, the camera has long been a natural ally. But the thousands of photographs Norman Rockwell created as studies for his iconic images are a case apart. A natural storyteller, Rockwell envisioned his narrative scenarios down to the smallest detail. Yet at the easel he was an absolute literalist who rarely painted directly from his imagination.

Instead, he first brought his ideas to life in studio sessions, staging photographs that are fully realized works of art in their own right. Selecting props and locations, choosing and directing his models, he carefully orchestrated each element of his design for the camera before beginning to paint. Meticulously composed and richly detailed, Norman Rockwell’s study photographs mirror his masterworks in a tangible parallel universe.

Rockwell staged his photographs much as a film director works with a cinematographer, instructing his cameramen when to shoot and never personally firing the shutter. He created an abundance of photographs for each new subject, sometimes capturing complete compositions and other times jigsawing together separate pictures of individual elements. And never above getting into the act, many images catch the artist himself in the frame, exuberantly performing alongside his amateur models.

Image Left: New Kids in the Neighborhood, 1967. Story illustration for Look, May 16, 1967. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Norman Rockwell Family Agency. All rights reserved. With reference photos.

The Runaway, Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover September 20, 1958

About Norman Rockwell

Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.
—Norman Rockwell

Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.

Rockwell found success early. He painted his first commission of four Christmas cards before his sixteenth birthday. While still in his teens, he was hired as art director of Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America, and began a successful freelance career illustrating a variety of young people’s publications.

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Host this Exhibition

Contact Information:

Mary Melius
Manager of Traveling Exhibitions


Complete Facts
Contents: A selection of tear sheets, prints and signed print;
Security: Moderate, all works must be within sight of a trained security officer/staff member at all times during public hours;
Environment: Light level -18 to 22 foot candles for paintings and 5 to 7 foot candles for works on paper and other light restricted objects. Humidity -50% plus or minus 5% and temperature 68 – 72 degrees, no direct sunlight and no direct contact with light fixtures or heating, air conditioning, ventilation, or electrical outlets;
Shipping & Insurance: roundtrip expenses and while in exhibitor’s care

Photos of the installed galleries for Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera

Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo
Behind the Camera Installed photo

Venues Hosting This Exhibition

This exhibition is available for hosting