THE UNKNOWN ROCKWELL:
A Portrait Of Two American Families
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Norman Rockwell Museum Celebrates 100 Years of The Boy Scouts of America
Stockbridge, MA, October 8, 2010 - As a young artist, one of Norman Rockwell's first high-profile jobs was being commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America to illustrate its "Hike Book" in the fall of 1912; shortly after, Rockwell was appointed art editor of "Boy's Life" and went on to create memorable cover and story illustrations for the youth development organization's publication. Grateful for this opportunity and early exposure, Rockwell maintained a 64 year association with the Scouts, generating close to 500 images for the organization's calendars, magazine covers, stories, recruiting posters, and guidebooks. This year marks the 100 year anniversary of The Boy Scouts of America, and Norman Rockwell Museum will present a special afternoon celebrating the organization and its long-time connection to Norman Rockwell, on Saturday, October 23, from 12 to 4 p.m.
The afternoon kicks off with an appearance from James A. "Buddy"Edgerton, Norman Rockwell's next-door neighbor in Arlington, Vermont during the 1940s and early 1950s. Edgerton, who posed for many of Rockwell's best-known Boy Scouts images, will be joined by author Nan O'Brien to discuss their book "The Unknown Rockwell: A Portrait of Two American Families," with a book signing to follow.
At 2 p.m., meet official Boy Scouts artist Joe Csatari and his son, "Men's Health" editor Jeff Csatari, who will present an illustrated talk and discussion about their recent book "Norman Rockwell's Boy Scouts of America;" Joe Csatari will share his memories of working with Rockwell during his early years with The Boy Scouts. Special gallery talks and a discussion of the exhibition "Norman Rockwell and The Boy Scouts of America" will be provided throughout the day, and Scout troops will have the opportunity to earn their own Rockwell Award Patch through a number of challenging art activities. Admission to the event is $20 per scout troop, and free for all others with regular Museum admission. For more information, please call 413.298.4100.
"Norman Rockwell and The Boy Scouts of America" Through November 27, 2010
You’ve Seen Their Faces in the Works of Rockwell
© Nathaniel Brooks for The New York Times: A reunion of models who sat for Norman Rockwell at the St. James Episcopal Church in Arlington, Vt., on Saturday
ARLINGTON, VT. — They were plucked from Grange halls, school dances and the town green, regular people whose faces, by the brushstrokes of a neighbor, would come to embody Americana.
— They were plucked from Grange halls, school dances and the town green, regular people whose faces, by the brushstrokes of a neighbor, would come to embody Americana.
For more than a decade — between going to school and playing, working and cooking — residents of this southwestern Vermont town worked as models for Norman Rockwell. For $5, they would spend a few hours posing, their young faces forever captured in calendars, greeting cards and paintings.
Rockwell left Arlington in 1953, and many of his child models grew up and followed suit. But on Saturday, dozens returned for a celebration of Rockwell, a reunion of grown models in the small town that set the stage for some of his most iconic works.
“This is an old-home reunion for a lot of us,” said Ardis Edgerton Clark, who lived next door to the Rockwell family and befriended them. “A lot of the models are gone. It’s the kids who are left. I’m talking as the kid who is 76 now.”
Ms. Clark remembers posing for about a half-dozen Rockwell works, including “Homecoming G.I.,” where she and other children spent a day “on the porch of a brick tenement with my mouth wide open,” a soldier holding a duffel bag approaching.
Rockwell would “act out the part he wanted you to act, and he would show the expression,” Ms. Clark said. A photographer was always on hand and took numerous pictures, which Mr. Rockwell would refer to while painting.
“We’d have our mouths open and our tongues out and our eyes squinting,” Ms. Clark said. “And he’d be doing it right along with me.”
The Rockwell family, by all accounts, fit seamlessly into this town that, along with its farms and tradesmen, had become an artists’ colony. Rockwell and his wife, Mary, had three sons who attended school, and Mary was like a second mother to Ms. Clark, who worked in the family home throughout high school.
“I’d polish sterling silver,” Ms. Clark said. “I’d never seen a sterling silver piece, yet they were such down-to-earth people and blended into our little community.”
Rockwell was very involved in the town Grange and would volunteer to wax and sweep the floor after town dances, said Clarence Decker, another former model.
Rockwell “used to make the comment that he liked to sell tickets at the dances because he was very interested in people’s hands, and also their faces and whatever else he would watch as he was passing out tickets,” Mr. Decker said. “He was thinking about his next picture.”
Mr. Rockwell likely used thousands of everyday people as models while living and working here and in Stockbridge, Mass., said Laurie Norton Moffatt, curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, where Mr. Rockwell moved in the 1950s. Mr. Rockwell also illustrated while living in New Rochelle, N.Y., but used commercial models, she said.
The museum holds model reunions each year and has recorded oral histories with at least 80 men and women who posed. Saturday’s gathering, in St. James Episcopal Church here, was the first time the Vermont models got together.
“It’s a defining moment in what makes them who they are,” said Jessika Drmacich, an archivist at the museum.
While Mr. Rockwell took certain characteristics of his models — the particular curve of a smile or width of ears — his illustrations and paintings were highly staged, models and Ms. Moffatt said. Mr. Rockwell would often photograph each model individually and add them to a painting. Sometimes he would take features of one individual, a strong arm or prominent nose, and paint or draw them on another person. For “Going and Coming,” for example, he photographed Ms. Clark’s grandmother sitting in a chair, then painted her riding in a car.
“He was casting and directing,” Ms. Moffatt said. “Each person would pose by themselves and be put together like a collage.”
Don Trachte, who helped organize Saturday’s reunion, posed only once.
“I was a pain in the neck, and evidently I was acting up,” said Mr. Trachte, who ended up on the cover of Child Life Magazine and some Hallmark Christmas cards. “I had to pose holding the hand of a girl.
“That was the end of my career,” he said. “I wasn’t invited back.”
Saturday’s event was held during the annual Norman’s Attic event here, a crafts fair and celebration of Rockwell’s life. The Rockwells raised their sons in this town, and Mary Rockwell, many said, was a maternal figure who would invite children into the home and shuttle models around town.
“Mary was my second mom,” Ms. Clark said. Her brother, James, known as Buddy, and a co-author, Nan O’Brien, wrote a book about living next to the Rockwells, “The Unknown Rockwell: A Portrait of Two American Families.”
The families grew extremely close, with Rockwell loaning the Edgertons money (which was promptly repaid) for a cow and the Edgertons watching the three Rockwell boys when their parents were out of town. Rockwell often asked the Edgertons for their opinions, especially during the posing session for “The Long Shadow of Lincoln.” Mr. Edgerton even helped Rockwell build his studio.
Mr. Decker said he remembered skipping school for a few days to pose for Rockwell, something no one minded. His father also posed, as the boxer in “The Sharpshooter” and as a sailor. Mr. Rockwell started to give the sailor the tattoo “Belle,” Mr. Decker’s mother’s name, but she balked and it became “Betty,” he said.
“We had a written excuse when Norman would call and say, ‘Mary will be there at such and such a time,’ ” Mr. Decker said. “As a kid I didn’t make much of it. Today I’m kind of proud that I had done that.”