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New York – Christie’s Private Sales is pleased to present Illustrating America: Norman Rockwell and His Contemporaries, an exhibition comprised of works both on loan and available for private sale that will take place from November 30 through December 20 in Christie’s New York Galleries. Christie’s first exhibition devoted solely to the art of American Illustration, the exhibition will feature approximately 50 works by iconic artists such as Norman Rockwell, Joseph Christian Leyendecker and Jessie Willcox Smith, among others. Elizabeth Beaman, Senior Specialist of American Paintings at Christie’s, notes, “Anchored by such iconic and rarely seen The Saturday Evening Post covers as Rockwell’s Charwomen in Theater (1946), Armchair General (1944), and The Rookie (1957), this exciting exhibition will be a survey of American illustrators active in the 20th century who shaped our imagination and forged a sense of national identity through their art.”
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Throughout the 20th century, Norman Rockwell was witness to such artistic movements as Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism, and more. Despite these developments in the milieu of art history, Rockwell chose to pursue a career as an illustrator, producing more than 800 magazine covers, in all. As America’s preeminent illustrator, he became as ubiquitous to the American public as the images he created. The paintings included in this Christie’s exhibition wonderfully capture Rockwell’s unique ability to tell an entire narrative through a single image. The Rookie (Red Sox Locker Room) (illustrated right) is set in the Boston Red Sox locker room during spring training; an awkward newcomer is juxtaposed with the confident stances of the seasoned players, including baseball great and American hero Ted Williams, making the rookie’s anxiety all the more apparent and endearing. While Rockwell is perhaps best-known for his very charming and particularly humorous covers, Armchair General (Man Charting War Maneuvers) (illustrated below) reminds us of the intellectual and intelligent artist well aware of his impact through the power of his imagery. The work depicts an elderly man, unable to serve but perhaps a veteran of World War I, listening to the news and charting the trajectory of the troops on maps of Europe. The three star flag and accompanying three photos of his sons demonstrate that he is not only an engaged citizen, relating a quieter story of American patriotism and heroism, but a nervous parent awaiting news.
In Charwomen (illustrated page 1), Rockwell depicts two elderly women in the Majestic Theater on Broadway. While the job of a charwoman may not have been the most glamorous, Rockwell does not portray the women in a pitiful light. Instead, in true Rockwell fashion, the work is imbued with undercurrents of sweet innocence and simplicity. In the midst of their shift, the women have granted themselves a moment of brief respite from the monotony of their labors to enjoy the Playbill programs that have been left behind by past theatergoers. Their weathered faces soften as they become engrossed in the plot, seemingly transporting them to a world far beyond the confines of the theater.
Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951)
J.C. Leyendecker’s work, like Norman Rockwell’s, is synonymous with the famed publication The Saturday Evening Post. Leyendecker completed over three hundred covers for the publication, as well as important and iconic advertising campaigns for Arrow Collar and Kuppenheimer. Rockwell was greatly influenced by Leyendecker’s work, which can be particularly seen in his early works. Illustrating America at Christie’s will feature several major The Saturday Evening Post covers by Leyendecker, including Independence Day (“When, in the Course of Human Events”) (illustrated right). The patriotic painting, which depicts a 19th century orator, was used as the cover illustration of the July 4, 1908 issue and was accompanied by the first line of the Declaration of Independence. In addition to his many Independence Day covers for The Saturday Evening Post, J.C. Leyendecker completed a breadth of other holiday covers, many of which contrasted the seasonal experiences of the rich-and-poor and old-and-young; Tipping the Porter (illustrated page 3), the cover illustration of the December 18, 1937 issue, is a quintessential example of the subject.
Jessie Willcox Smith (1863-1935)
Jessie Willcox Smith, who also features prominently in the exhibition, studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, as well as under the tutelage of Howard Pyle, the famous illustrator who also taught N.C. Wyeth. Smith illustrated the timeless classics Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women and Johanna Spyri’s Heidi, but she made her mark illustrating well known children’s books such as A Child's Garden of Verses (1905). In addition to her book illustrations, Smith’s works were often featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine; Curly Locks (illustrated right) is one such example that will be included in this exhibition. Curly Locks was featured in the January 1914 issue of Good Housekeeping, as well as in Smith’s 1914 publication The Jessie Willcox Smith Mother Goose, in which it accompanied a nursery rhyme by the same title.
Related Departments American Art