Larger Type
Smaller Type


Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

July 2, 2010 – January 2, 2011


Image for Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

Norman Rockwell, Shadow Artist, 1920, oil on canvas, Collection of George Lucas

Telling Stories is the first major exhibition to explore in-depth the connections between Norman Rockwell’s iconic images of American life and the movies. Two of America’s best-known modern filmmakers—George Lucas and Steven Spielberg—recognized a kindred spirit in Rockwell and formed significant collections of his work. Rockwell’s paintings and the films of Lucas and Spielberg evoke love of country, small town values, children growing up, unlikely heroes, acts of imagination and life’s ironies.

Rockwell was a masterful storyteller who could distill a narrative into a single frame. His pictures tell stories about the adventure of growing up, of individuals rising up to face personal challenges, the glamour of Hollywood and the importance of tolerance in American life. He created his pictures with strategies similar to those used by filmmakers.

The exhibition is based on new research into Rockwell, his work and the relationships between the artist and the movies. It showcases fifty-seven major Rockwell paintings and drawings from these private collections. The museum is the only venue for the exhibition. Telling Stories is organized by Virginia M. Mecklenburg, senior curator.

A 12-minute film, co-produced by the museum and filmmaker Laurent Bouzereau, will be shown continuously in the exhibition galleries. It features interviews with Lucas and Spielberg that reveal their insights into Rockwell’s art and why certain works appealed to them.


A catalogue, published by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and Abrams, accompanies the exhibition. Written by Mecklenburg with a contribution by Todd McCarthy, a film critic for Variety, the publication is available for $65 hardcover ($35.95 softcover) in the museum store, online, and at book stores nationwide.

Norman Rockwell, Children Dancing at a Party (Pardon Me), 1918 oil on canvas Collection of Steven Spielberg © 1918 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indpls, IN. All rights reserved.

Educational Initiatives
A Teacher's Guide is available for educators to use in their classrooms and to prepare for a visit to the exhibition. Download the online version of the guide and the related images.

The museum also is offering several educational events, including school tours and professional development programs. A three-day National Council for the Social Studies professional development workshop is August 11-13, 2010. An Evening for Educators in the museum's galleries, cosponsored with the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is November 4, 2010; advance registration is required.

Docent-led tours of the exhibition are available from 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. beginning September 1, 2010; advance registration is required.

Free Public Programs
Saturday, July 3, 2010 from 1 to 3 p.m.; musical performance by Airmen of Note
Sunday, July 4, 2010 from 1 to 3 p.m.; musical performance by Airmen of Note
Thursday, July 8, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1935), directed by Frank Capra
Sunday, July 18, 2010 at 4 p.m.; musical performanc by Washington Symphonic Brass
Thursday, July 22, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; Saving Private Ryan (1998), directed by Steven Spielberg
Saturday, July 24, 2010 from 11:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Scouting Family Day
Thursday, August 5, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; talk and book signing by Ron Schick, author of Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera
Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; State of the Union (1948), directed by Frank Capra
Thursday, September 16, 2010 from 5 to 7 p.m.; musical performance by Airmen of Note
Thursday, September 16, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; Empire of the Sun (1987), directed by Steven Spielberg
Friday, September 24, 2010 at 3 p.m.; Symposium—Norman Rockwell: American Art and the Movies with Virginia Mecklenburg (American Art Museum), Katherine Manthorne (City University of New York), Erika Doss (University of Notre Dame), and James Deutsch (Smithsonian’s Center for Folklife & Cultural Heritage)
Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; American Graffiti (1974), directed by George Lucas
Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 6:30 p.m.; Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), directed by Frank Capra
Saturday, October 23, 2010 from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.; Rockwell Family Day
Sunday, November 14, 2010 at 3 p.m.; musical performance by American Century Music

Media Coverage
Artforum International Magazine, December 2010, "Norman Rockwell" by J. Hoberman
Voice of America, August 9, 2010, "All-American Artist Inspires Lucas, Spielberg—Leading Hollywood filmmakers take a cue from illustrator Norman Rockwell" by Susan Logue Koster
NPR, Morning Edition, July 9, 2010, "Spielberg, Lucas Celebrate Rockwell's Iconic America" by Susan Stamberg
BBC World News America, July 9, 2010, "Spielberg and Lucas honour Rockwell" by Jane O'Brien
CBS Sunday Morning, July 4, 2010, "How One of the Most Successful Painters of Americana Influenced Two of the Most Successful American Filmmakers" by Rita Braver
The New York Times, July 4, 2010, "America, Illustrated" by Deborah Solomon
The Washington Post, July 4, 2010, "Norman Rockwell exhibit opens at the Smithsonian American Art Museum" by Blake Gopnik
The Washington Post, July 3, 2010, "Filmmakers Spielberg, Lucas share Rockwell's Americana at Smithsonian" by Jacqueline Trescott
Variety, June 27, 2010, "Rockwell's Hollywood connection" by Ted Johnson
Los Angeles Times, June 27, 2010, "Selections from George Lucas' and Steven Spielberg's Norman Rockwell collections show at Smithsonian American Art Museum" by Jori Finkel
Modern Art Notes, March 1, 2010, Q&A with SAAM director Elizabeth Broun on Rockwell by Tyler Green, Part 1 and Part 2
The Washington Post, October 1, 2009 – "Smithsonian to Feature Rockwell" by Jacqueline Trescott

Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg is organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Booz Allen Hamilton has provided generous support as the corporate sponsor of the exhibition. The museum also gratefully acknowledges the contributions of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.