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

July 1, 2010 — January 2, 2011

Smithsonian American Art Museum (8th and G Streets, NW)
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Norman RockwellShadow 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. Telling Stories is organized by Virginia M. Mecklenburg, senior curator.

Exhibition Catalogue

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

Norman Rockwell’s pictures tell stories—of children growing up and of couples growing old—that make us laugh with warmhearted recognition. Rockwell was a master humorist with an infallible sense of the dramatic moment. Like a movie director, he determined the pose and facial expression of each character, positioned each prop, and lighted his sets for maximum scenic effect. George Lucas and Steven Spielberg encountered Rockwell’s magazine covers as boys. The painter’s stories, and the ideals they reflect, fascinated these two friends and sometime collaborators and drew them to value, and collect, the work of Norman Rockwell. In this book, Virginia Mecklenburg traces Rockwell’s career using works from the collections of Lucas and Spielberg as guideposts. She also explores Rockwell’s fascination with Hollywood and his elaborate creative process wherein he assumed a role remarkably like that of a film director. In a separate essay, Todd McCarthy describes Rockwell’s cinematic techniques and draws parallels between Rockwell’s subjects and those of Hollywood directors, including Lucas and Spielberg.

Video

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  • George Lucas and Steven Spielberg reveal their insights into Rockwell's art and why certain works appealed to them. Telling Stories is the first major exhibition to explore the connections between Norman Rockwell's iconic images of American life and the movies.

    Credits

    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.