Lights! Camera! Exhibition! Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg

Norman Rockwell

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

And the Oscar goes to…Norman Rockwell? Not quite, but the beloved American illustrator and painter was well connected to the movie business.

In fact, Rockwell once said, “If I hadn’t become a painter, I would have liked to have been a movie director.” Take a closer look at Rockwell and his working process at the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.


Just like Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, Rockwell was a storyteller. And like the filmmakers, he tried to convey in each painting as much visual information as possible. All three men are linked by a desire to capture particularly American stories and distill life into myth. Rockwell emphasized the heroism of the ordinary man, such as in the painting The Runaway in which a friendly policeman talks a little boy who has run away from home into returning.


The artist was born in 1894, and his work spanned a good part of the twentieth century. His last paintings were created in the 1970s, at about the time Lucas and Spielberg were thinking inside a different frame. Had the storytelling mantle been passed from picture frame to movie frame? Rockwell often employed Hollywood themes in his work, and Americans gravitated to them in good times as well as bad, in war as well as peace. His images of soldiers returning from World War II, for example, feel like stills from films by William Wyler, Frank Capra, and of course, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas.


The exhibition Telling Stories continues through January 2, 2011. Come and see Rockwell through a different lens. Popcorn not included.


This post was written by Howard Kaplan and originally published on Eye Level, the blog of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

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Profile Photo Kathleen Smith

I have been there and it is fantastic! I highly recommend it and I have gone twice! I was able to catch one of the curator talks in the McEvoy Auditorium which added further depth to the exhibit. There is lots of history and culture to examine while looking at the pictures through the artist’s eyes. Definitely stay for the 30 minute video.
An interesting note is that Rockwell felt the need to remind Americans of simple values, respect/appreciation for our military/veterans, and to look at common everyday things through different eyes to provide inspiration and renew optimism. This was all needed as the country was dealing with difficult economic times and war.
Sound familiar?