Photo of Norman Rockwell working on “First Trip to the Beauty Parlor” with dog Pitter in his Stockbridge studio, 1972. Photo by Bill Scovill. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Photo of Norman Rockwell working on “First Trip to the Beauty Parlor” with dog Pitter in his Stockbridge studio, 1972. Photo by Bill Scovill. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Stockbridge, MA, May 24 2011–Throughout artist Norman Rockwell’s career, dogs of all kinds–from wide-eyed beagles to endearing mutts–made frequent appearances in his work. A dog-lover himself, the artist realized how appealing dogs were to readers of the “Saturday Evening Post” and other publications, and he intentionally cast them as interacting figures in his compositions for cover paintings, story illustrations, advertisements, and family Christmas cards. A new exhibition will focus on Rockwell’s work with canines through original artworks, photographs, and archival materials–”It’s a Dog’s Life: Norman Rockwell Paints Man’s Best Friends” will be on view at Norman Rockwell Museum from June 25 through November 11, 2011.

“Rockwell’s own dogs accompanied him to the studio, and would sometimes nap alongside him as he worked,” notes Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies Curator Dr. Joyce K. Schiller, who organized the exhibition for the Museum. “He also borrowed neighbors’ dogs to serve as models, enlisting their owners to assist them in striking a pose. Offering advice to fellow artists, he coached them to portray animals ‘as carefully and understandingly’ as they paint people in their work.”

“It’s A Dog’s Life” explores the way Norman Rockwell used canines to help audiences focus on the stories he imagined and illustrated. Already within the first decade of his career the artist created a recurring dog character named Patsy that appeared in cover illustrations for such magazines as “Farm and Fireside” and “Country Gentleman,” and again years later as sketch accompanying his signature (“Your Faithful Friend,” c. 1925). Rockwell also appealed to consumers’ love of dogs by featuring them prominently in illustrations for such advertisers as Sun-Maid Raisins (a black and white terrier in 1927’s “Market Days Special”) and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (his own dog Pitter was the model for the beagle that appeared in 1960’s “Juvenile Cowboy”). Various breeds also played significant roles in some of the artist’s most beloved works, including “No Swimming” (1921), “Good Friends” (1925), “Going and Coming” (1947), and “New Kids in the Neighborhood” (1967). Rockwell filed away stores of photographic reference of dogs, which he referred to frequently for his work. The exhibition will feature several examples of these reference materials, along with rarely-seen personal photographs of the artist and his family posing with their beloved pets.

Exhibition Related Program

DOGS! FESTIVITIES FOR FAMILIES

Saturday, August 6, from 11 to 3 p.m.

Enjoy this pet-friendly program inspired by Rockwell’s many dog illustrations over the years. Featured guests include: Scooby Doo; Eric Letendre from Bay State Dog Training, who will share tricks of the trade; and Berkshire Humane Society, with lovable canines in tow. Bring along your own dog, and join us for a costume parade, art activities, or a photo with your pooch! Enjoy a snow cone, pictorial cancellation of the new forever stamp “Owny the Postal Dog,” exhibition tours (humans only please- dogsitters available), and more! Free with Museum admission. Sponsored in part by Time Warner Cable.

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