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Picturing Health: Norman Rockwell and the Art of Illustration

January 27 - May 28, 2007


From Norman Rockwell's images of a kindly country doctor in caring consultation with his patients to contemporary artworks regaling the latest health regimens and medical revelations, health-related topics have long been a source for compelling artistic commentary. (Right: Norman Rockwell, "Doctor and Boy Looking at Thermometer," 1954. Display advertisement for The Upjohn Company. Oil on canvas. Collection of Pfizer Inc. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing , Niles, IL)

Images of health and well-being reflect the central theme of the Norman Rockwell Museum's new exhibition, Picturing Health: Norman Rockwell and the Art of Illustration, on view January 27 through May 28, 2007. The exhibition features both

Norman Rockwell's elaborate, painterly narratives, created for medical advertisements in the last century, and modern-day editorial art about health by today's top illustrators. "From Thomas Eakins' famous painting of the 'Gross Clinic,' to Norman Rockwell's twentieth century depictions of the kindly doctor who makes house calls, medical illustration holds deep fascination for us," says Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum. "Picturing Health is a compelling compilation of twenty-first century artworks that contrasts contemporary issues and new challenges in medicine, health and wellness with Rockwell's timeless images of healing."

Thematically, the heart of the exhibition focuses on the importance of the doctor/patient relationship and the mind/body connection to health and healing. The exhibition also sheds light on the artistic, cultural, and commercial influences that inform the creative process of a working illustrator and underscores the significance of narrative images in shaping public perception.

Picturing Health: Norman Rockwell and the Art of Illustration is being sponsored by Pfizer Inc. For over 158 years, Pfizer has been working to help people live longer, healthier, happier lives. Additional support for the opening reception has been provided by The Berkshire Co-op in Great Barrington, MA.

The exhibition, organized and curated by the Norman Rockwell Museum with Chief Curator Stephanie Plunkett, features rare, original oil paintings by Norman Rockwell from the Pfizer Collection. These paintings, considered to be among the finest examples of Rockwell's advertising commissions, explore the doctor/patient relationship, physical fitness, and health and healing. From 1929 to 1961, Rockwell was commissioned to create images for the advertising campaigns of The Upjohn Company, Lambert Pharmacal and American Optical. Similar to the work he created for The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell's advertising images inspired Americans to view themselves and their physicians with optimism, and presented the notion that health is affected as much by our emotional lives as by our physical well-being.

Picturing Health includes original works by 12 of today's most respected illustrators. These images, first published in Healthy Living, Men's Health, Newsweek, The New York Times, and The New Yorker, among others, present perspectives on many of the same health-related subjects that Rockwell explored more than 50 years ago. The contemporary artists represented in the exhibition are Melinda Beck, Cathie Bleck, Guy Billout, Juliette Borda, Cora Lynn Deibler, Teresa Fasolino, Frances Jetter, Gregory Manchess, Peter de Sève, Whitney Sherman, Elwood Smith, and Mark Ulriksen. "Norman Rockwell's poignant narratives for the health industry, created more than a half-century ago, offer a compelling counterpoint to today's bold graphic statements illuminating such complex issues as the study of genetics, the emergence of automated medicine, caring for aging parents, the viability of herbal remedies, and the managed care system," says exhibition curator Stephanie Plunkett.


(above: Norman Rockwell, "Doctor and Doll," 1942, Oil on canvas, 41 1/2" x 32 inches. Display advertisement for The Upjohn Company. Collection of Pfizer Inc. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing , Niles, IL)


(above: Gregory Manchess, "Untitled," 2006. Mural painting for the American College of Cardiologists, Washington, D.C. Oil on linen. Collection of the artist. ©2006 Gregory Manchess)

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