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Before televisions, computers, and high-speed internet, everyday Americans engaged with image-based storytelling through illustration. Designed covers—based on finished paintings—by artists like Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) regularly reached thousands of homes via massed-produced publications such as The Saturday Evening Post. Celebrating the charming, wholesome, and seemingly commonplace, Rockwell enjoyed a successful career, which unfolded against a string of epoch-making crises and revolutions, including the Great Depression, World War II, the Civil Rights movement, feminism, the moon landing, and the Vietnam War. Through illustration, Rockwell and his peers revealed the many shapes of 20th-century American society, chronicling its transformations, struggles, and ideals. They notably used the vehicle of childhood to explore complex and sometimes fraught subject matter. By tapping into the universal experience of childhood and its association to innocence, artists rendered topics such as gender, sexuality, religion, patriotism, racism, and conflict more digestible.

In partnership with the National Museum of American Illustration (NMAI), based in Newport Rhode Island, Norman Rockwell & Peers: Illustrating Childhood will feature over 60 works from NMAI’s collection by key figures in the history of American illustration, including Norman Rockwell, Maxfield Parrish (1870–1966), J.C. Leyendecker (1874–1951), Ethel Franklin Betts (1877–1959), Jessie Wilcox Smith (1863–1935), and N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945).

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