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Celebrating Norman Rockwell's Eye-Catching Artwork

Celebrating Norman Rockwell's Eye-Catching Artwork

“We hope the public will join in the celebration of a fantastic American creation—Norman Rockwell’s clever and whimsical painting, The Oculist.” - Rebecca Massie Lane, Executive Director, Wash. Co. Museum of Fine Arts

It’s the last thing the boy wants. He can hear the taunts from his friends even before they start: “Four eyes!” And his baseball career is most likely over. But his doctor is smiling widely, knowing that the child is growing up... about to see the world much more clearly. 

Like many of Norman Rockwell’s paintings, “The Oculist” tells a truly American story. It carries the charm, the realism, and the optimism that characterize most of the artist’s works. For the past 60 years, it has been one of the prized pieces in the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts’ collection.

The painting was acquired by the museum in 1957, months after it had appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. It was purchased through direct correspondence between the museum’s then director, Bruce Etchison, and Rockwell himself.

Noting that the museum “sounds like just the sort of place where I would like to be represented,” Rockwell agreed to sell the painting directly to the museum at a significantly lower price than usual.

The museum is celebrating the painting’s 60th anniversary with a “focus show” that features the acquisition documents as well as rarely seen photographs of studio models and compositional stage sets taken by Rockwell.

“It is great fun to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the ‘birth’ of a beloved painting in the collection of the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts,” museum director Rebecca Massie Lane said. “The documentation of its creation and the story of how the museum acquired the painting are both fascinating.”

Rockwell became one of America’s best known, and best loved artists, largely as a result of the 322 covers that he created for the Saturday Evening Post between 1916 and 1963.

A careful observer of human emotions and behavior, Rockwell successfully captured the seemingly spontaneous events of daily life through the faces, poses, and actions of people that he knew personally.  Yet, as this exhibition shows, Rockwell’s method was far from spontaneous.

Working over a period of several weeks, Rockwell frequently captured variations of his compositions through staged photographs that he then meticulously reworked through drawings and oil sketches before finalizing his compositional story on canvas.

On Sunday, June 19, the WCMFA will present a public program featuring guest speaker Dr. Virginia Mecklenburg, Chief Curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM).

A specialist on American art and culture, Dr. Mecklenburg served as curator and primary catalogue author for SAAM’s 2010 exhibition Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

To celebrate the WCMFA painting The Oculist, Dr. Mecklenburg will present an illustrated lecture on the topic Seeing America with Norman Rockwell. The exhibition is organized by the Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in partnership with the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The exhibition is sponsored in part by Anne G. & Howard S. Kaylor, Conservit, Inc. and Mr. & Mrs. Peter Franchot.

For more information on the Museum, please phone (301) 739-5727 or visit www.wcmfa.org.  Museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., Saturday from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., and Sunday from 1:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Play Ball!  Celebrating Sixty Years of Norman Rockwell’s “The Oculist”

WHEN: May 19 – October 23, 2016

WHERE: Washington County Museum of Fine Arts

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