Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Norman Rockwell and the Art of Scouting

I'm going to say this first thing: If you are in the Dallas area, you want a wonderful attraction that includes a significantly large collection of Norman Rockwell paintings, exhibits and interactive activities, all with free admission (Sundays and Mondays; admission other days), check out the National Scouting Museum in Irving on Walnut Ridge Road, near MacArthur Blvd.

And check it out fast because in May the non-art part of the museum is moving to Cimarron, NM and to the Philmont Scout Camp.

Rick, his mom and I visited this before he and I headed home. This post is in two parts and the first focuses on the art collection. You'll see numerous photos of Rockwell art in this post. If the topic interests you, check out the photo captions for more details.

The Scoutmaster was painted in 1954. The scouts had him go back and revamp the tents because his first time through the sides of the tents were missing (like an Army tent). The scout tents have narrow sides at the bottom of the A-frame
 Many Norman Rockwell originals are included along with art by Joseph Cstari, artist for the scouts.

The blog Illustration Art posted their answer to the difference between fine art and illustration. From the point of the writer, there is no difference apart from the way the artist is paid. (Often fine art is done with no direct buyer in line, while illustration tends to be done for magazines, books or other printed material and the artist is paid by the job. There are, of course exceptions.)

(By the way, if you are into this, check out the article. It's pretty interesting!)

I didn't get the name on this one but our guide reminded us that the eyes of the two scouts in front tend to follow you no matter where you stand. And yes, they do.
I was glad to read this because I sometimes hear illustrators put down and it is so unfair. Their work tells stories and in the case of Norman Rockwell (and Joseph Cstari) no one can say the work is shoddy.

"Mighty Proud" shows a young scout moving up from Cubs into his Boy Scout uniform. You can tell the family is as thrilled as he is!
 Norman Rockwell has always been a favorite of mine. He captures the human spirit in fine detail -- the joys, the concerns, the pleasures and the perils of life.

"Forward America" was an illustration for the 1951 Brown & Bigelow Boy Scout calendar. It is unique in portraying scouts from different programs offered at the time -- Explorer, Cub, Boy Scout, Air Scout and Sea Scout (the latter two now defunct).

He is perhaps best known for his illustrations in Saturday Evening Post but I didn't know his first job was doing art for the Boy Scouts. He did numerous pieces of calendar art, including Boy Scout Calendars for the Brown and Bigelow company, among his other projects.

Rockwell's life wasn't a particularly happy one. He suffered from depression and his second wife also spent time in a psychiatric clinic. His work was dismissed by serious art critics until later in his life and his work was often considered sentimental, idealistic and "not serious." It wasn't until later in his life when he chose more serious subjects for his work that he began to claim a wider respect.

I am a sucker for Rockwell's work, having tried with little success to paint something with the complete detail, soul and personality that would be a worthy try. (Maybe it isn't my style or medium but oh, I love it!) I love the heart and energy and sheer joy.

I loved that he used the people he knew as his models and painted from photographs, often setting up an elaborate scene or going out into the field to set the stage.

"Men of Tomorrow" was an oil done for the 1948 calendar. The Cub Scout in the foreground was modeled by Peter Rockwell, the artist's younger son. His next-door neighbor was featured as well, posing for six figures. He held hiking poses in the studio while posing on wooden plants to simulate the walking effect. He was paid five dollars for his work. Our guide told us that the first figure was doing the tradition scout "good deed" by carrying the hat of the boy carrying the canoe. He also explained that some Rockwell's have the script signature, not his preferred version in his later work..
We enjoyed a number of his paintings at the musem. Our guide, 90-year-old Paul Ernst, had met Rockwell during his many years working with the Boy Scouts. If you happen to stop by (we went on a free Monday), I hope you have the opportunity to meet this remarkable man. He knew the work, he knew the stories, he knew the myths and the methods. We couldn't have asked for anyone more personable or knowledgeable to be our guide.

For example, check out the texture on this painting. Traditionally Rockwell painted in a very smooth style.

But here you will note texture and use of the palette knife in the clouds and ground.

He also pointed out to us that while Rockwell had two signatures, the block letters here were his preferred version.

The artist often included dogs in his paintings and not surprisingly many of those he used were his own.

I loved this piece, "The Homecoming," capturing the family's enthusiasm as they welcome their home from camp. Note the energy, the partial leg and skirt of someone at the top of the steps. And if you look carefully, you will see that the step angle changes somewhat from top to bottom. Clearly, he was working from two different photos for the steps.

I really loved the detail on the wallpaper.

And check out the detail on the arm patch.

Of course, it had a Lizzie cat, so what's not to love?

Rockwell worked for the Boy Scouts and also did art for their handbooks. If you note in the photo below, the book cover is not yet painted. He hadn't decided what he wanted to do.


Here is the finished version as it appeared on the handbook.

Then there was this one, another calendar piece.

You can see the tips of the shoes, the humanity of the aging sailor...

and the detail of the globe.

Detail. Rockwell does it well. Rick had me be sure to capture this painting. (Pictured as a detail)Note the fingernails. They've been out and about!

Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't show some of the work of another artist who worked with the Scouts after Rockwell. Joseph Cstari is, I think, his equal in skill.

There isn't quite enough art to catch the "heart" of the work. I won't say it doesn't exist, but I see these less as telling a story than as illustrating a point.

But done well indeed.

So, two thumbs up and a big Boy Scout salute to this museum. But if you want to see this collection, get there soon!

Not a scouting painting, yet one of my favorites!
And ask for Paul!


Stacey said...

Well I had no idea! I'd love to see Norman Rockwall's in person.

Valerie-Jael said...

Ooooh, lucky you getting to see that exhibition, what wonderful paintings. Thanks for sharing, wish I had been there. My ribs are slowly getting better so I am hoping to get back to my museums and galleries soon. Hugs, Valerie

~Lavender Dreamer~ said...

Wow! That really is impressive! Wish I was in TX this Spring. I listed my books for January today if you have a chance to stop by! Hugs, Diane

The Happy Whisk said...

What a great collection of photos.

Deb said...

Very interesting. That would have been my favorite, too.

Bonnie said...

You were able to do a lot in a short time in Dallas. Thanks for sharing the museum with us. I well remember seeing his paintings on the cover of was it, the Saturday Evening Post magazine? I was a child growing up but have memories of the dentist and doctors offices also having his art framed in the waiting rooms.
Jeannie, have a great week.

I need orange said...

I love Rockwell. Thank you for sharing all of these with us!

When I think of what our flag means, I always think of the little girl, protected by the National Guard, on her way in to school. That's what our country means to me. We take care of the vulnerable, and see to it that they can get an education. The Problem We All Live With.

Shelia said...

Oh, how I love to see Norman Rockwell's work! Did you know his museum is in Stockbridge, Mass? We been a couple of times and learned that his subjects were the folks from Stockbridge. He kinda put Stockbridge on the map. Love the heart and soul of his work. You're on your way to famous my friend! Thanks for poppign in to see me.
Be a sweetie,
Shelia ;)

Sandra Cox said...

Rockwell was one of a kind. To look at his work, one would never guess he suffered from depression.

My name is Erika. said...

Wow. Who knew Normal Rockwell did so many scouting pieces. They are really amazing. He was such a talented guy, and of course, so many people remember him. I wonder if that would bring him solace after those critics put him down. Have you ever been to the Normal Rockwell museum in Western Massachusetts? I have never been there but you have me thinking it might be worth checking it out. Happy mid-week. Hugs-Erika

Bleubeard and Elizabeth said...

I have always loved Norman Rockwell, and have calendar of his works that were reproduced from 2003. To see this exhibit would be wonderful. He showed a simpler life, when the entire family was involved, not just the scouts. This must have been a wonderful exhibit for you and Rick to share.

BTW, the Boy Scouts are now accepting transgender boys. Let's hope Trump doesn't fire the CEO of the Boy Scouts of America.

Lynne said...

Great post . . .
I would "go see" if in Dallas . . .
My mother was fond of Rockwell . . .
I have some of her Saturday Evening Post photo collections.
I love his art of detail, color and clarity.
Noticed the stair differences you mentioned.
Wonderful review in photos and description.

La Table De Nana said...

I am with you I love his work..his attention to perfect detail..yet keeping charm and personality..often I find perfect..uninteresting..his art instills feelings..and yet it is perfect..the expressions..the movement ..the colors..♥
And your guide♥

The French Hutch said...

Jeanie, I am a big fan, love his work. We have a big coffee table book with some of his gorgeous work. If i were in the area I would take it in and I would request your tour guide. Guides with first hand knowledge make the best guides. Thanks for sharing this great post!

Joanne Huffman said...

I remember enjoying his Saturday Evening Post covers. Did you go to the Rockwell museum when you were in the Berkshires?

Lisa from Lisa's Yarns said...

I love Norman Rockwell's work! My favorite of what you shared was the welcome home picture. Love that the cat is in on the action! He is such a talented artist!! And that guide sounds phenomenal. How cool that he is still volunteering at age 90!

Rita C. said...

Norman Rockwell's body of work is fabulous. We visited the NR Museum on a trip to New England several years ago in Stockbridge MA. However, I did not realize his extensive work for the BSA. Lucky you to have the docent who actually knew him in those years he worked for them!

Decor To Adore said...

This museum has been on our bucket list. With a portion of it now moving and our boy just around the corner from making Eagle Scout we really MUST go.

Marilyn Miller said...

I do love Norman Rockwell's paintings. We once visited his studio and home and it was quite a treat. How special to meet this tour guide too and to see this Boy Scout art.

Jeanne Washburn said...

Thanks Jeanie for having me come along for this exhibit...I also love Rockwell and always felt bad that he was often dismissed as a fine artist. Also love all the colorful details about his life and the paintings...it brings it all to life.

Sandra Cox said...

What a wonderful experience to get to see his work.

jenna meon said...

Such an American icon! How fabulous to see his work in person!

Castles Crowns and Cottages said...

Rockwell's work is a dream and and idea. Beautifully crafted from each sinewy muscle of a fit America, to the detail of the wall paper. It all tells so much. LOVE IT!

Nasreen said...

Such amazing minute details in the pictures. Thanks for these photos.

Anonymous said...

Love me some Rockwell. I have a poster that was on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. It's in the style of Rockwell, but the artist was Frances Tipton Hunter. It's of a boy and his dog -- Double Trouble is the name.

Red Rose Alley said...

Norman Rockwell paintings are delightful. I've always liked them, Jeanie, especially the holiday ones. And I can see why that last picture is your favorite. Love the red plaid on the little boy. :)

Happy February!


Tracy said...

TJ & I have always loved the work of Norman Rockwell... this was just stunning to see! Amazing to see the richness of details in the work, having only seen photos of many things. This was a treat, Jeanie :) ((HUGS))

shoreacres said...

My favorite Rockwell piece still is Rosie the Riveter, one of those Saturday Evening Post covers. His version is so much stronger than the one most people know, which is kind of interesting. In this group, the old sailor is wonderful -- and doesn't he do a wonderful job of capturing animal expressions and behavior? I always say I'm a cat person rather than a dog person, but I love his dogs.

I don't know if you caught the connection, but the Cimarron grasslands that the good Mr. Sibley surveyed his way across are, of course, named for the Cimarron river. In fact, the Santa Fe trail cut relatively near Cimarron, New Mexico, and the Philnont Scout Ranch. It's a neat connection.

Wandering Wren said...

I loved seeing these paintings Jeanie especially with you (and Paul!) as our own personal tour guide pointing out exactly where to look and what is of note. Who'd have thought to look at the differences in the stairs from top to bottom? Fabulous that the museum had free entry as well! Your camera has done a good job with the quality of the photos especially as it looks quite dark inside in some places.
Wren x

Jenny Woolf said...

I went to a Norman Rockwell show here in London and even though he made his name as an illustrator, I think that in another period (when people had a different idea of what constitutes "art") he would have been considered a major artist. His problem seems to be that he did not challenge the status quo but many major artists in history have not done that, so I suspect in years to come Rockwell's name will not fade. I always admire his technical skill.

Jann Olson said...

I love the Scout photos by him. I have seen a few, but these are all wonderful! I loved learning that he used people that he knew to pose for him. Didn't realize that he worked for the Boy Scouts. Fun post! Thanks for sharing it with SYC.

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