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Kimball highlights the holidays with Norman Rockwell exhibition

MATT JAMES Of the Record staff
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Few holiday images are more iconic than those created by Norman Rockwell. He seemed to cut his subjects from the fabric of Americana, painting them to be delivered to homes on magazine covers, carrying a vision of the country.

Starting today, a collection of Rockwell’s holiday cover illustrations, titled, "Norman Rockwell: Home for the Holidays" will be on display in the Main Gallery of the Kimball Art Center. The exhibition will run through Jan. 12.

"What we’ll be showing is coming from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.," said Erin Linder, the curator at the Kimball Art Center.

"In the course of his seven-decade career, Rockwell painted many, many magazine covers, and he was most closely associated with The Saturday Evening Post," said Stephanie Plunkett, the curator of illustration art at the Norman Rockwell Museum.

He worked there from 1916 to 1963, she noted, and over the course of that time, he created dozen of holiday covers.

The exhibition consists of 40 such covers, all original tear-sheets from The Saturday Evening Post. They cover all of the holidays, from Christmas and Thanksgiving to New Year’s and Easter, and include some of his earlier images with Dickensian influences, according to Plunkett and some of his later ones, which were more marked by their awareness of social issues.

"There’s a pretty full range of images," said Plunkett.

To create the images, Plunkett said Rockwell would first make two or three sketches, which he would present to his editor at The Post. He and the editor would choose the image and afterward, Rockwell would make a more detailed sketch using models. That would lead to a detailed charcoal sketch, and eventually his painting. Plunkett also noted that the original works were often much larger than most people would expect, with some standing four feet tall. All of his works were done in oil on canvas.

"He had a sense that he was painting in a great tradition," Plunkett said.

Plunkett said the "Home for the Holidays" typically travels only around the holidays. The only other place the collection will be shown this year is the Memphis Brooks Museum of Art in Memphis, Tenn., which will display another version of the exhibit at the same time as the Kimball.

Plunkett said that the showing at the Kimball would likely be the first time a Norman Rockwell Museum exhibition had visited Utah, and noted the importance of bringing Rockwell’s art to as many places as possible.

"We want our exhibition to go to diverse communities across the country," she said. "Having the show come to Utah is fantastic."

Linder said the show is part of the Kimball’s effort to bring bigger, better-known exhibits to the art center.

"This would fit the bill of one of the more nationally acclaimed shows that’s touring," she said.

The Rockwell Museum was started in 1973 with a donation from Rockwell himself. The collection is based in Stockbridge, Rockwell’s home for the last 25 years of his life.

In addition to presenting the "Home for the Holidays" exhibition, the Kimball will also hold the "Kimball Holiday Family Celebration" on Dec. 3 from 5-8 p.m. The event will feature Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus, along with the Park City High School Concert Choir, children’s activities and refreshments.

"It’s a new thing," said Linder. "It’s our holiday gift back to the community."

The celebration, she said, will be an opportunity for both locals and visitors to come and see the art center.

The Kimball will also host an art talk about the show on Dec. 14 at 6 p.m. with a local art historian, who will talk about Rockwell’s career and works. In the meantime though, the public can appreciate the works starting today.

"This has been a show we’ve been anticipating for about two years now, and we’re excited to share it," said Linder.

For more information about "Norman Rockwell: Home for the Holidays," visit http://www.kimball-art.org or call 649-8882.


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