ArtBeat: “Keepers of the Flame” @ the Norman Rockwell Museum [Get Visual]
Review by David Brickman
This special exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, operates on several levels, and it offers the viewer pleasures and challenges on all of them. Keepers of the Flame: Parrish, Wyeth, Rockwell and the Narrative Tradition, on view through Sunday, October 28, was curated by University of Hartford Professor of Illustration Dennis Nolan based on a fascinating thesis he has developed that traces the three protagonists’ artistic lineage back through the centuries. The show also somewhat unusually includes Nolan’s own colored-pencil-and-watercolor illustrations, something I was especially interested to see when I went there.
Keepers of the Flame is organized into four rooms – three that each focus on one of the key artists (and his significant teachers), and one that sums up the whole concept. On the surface level, we can simply enjoy the show’s more than 60 paintings and drawings for what they are: Expertly crafted works by the top artists of the “Golden Age of Illustration” (approximately 100 years ago) and their immediate and more distant predecessors. This level of engagement could be enough for the casual visitor, as there are many fine examples of work by Maxfield Parrish, N.C. Wyeth (Andrew’s father) and Norman Rockwell, all of whom are extremely likable artists, and the choices from the past that have been gathered from near and far to augment their works include a number of big names (such as Jean-Leon Gerome and Thomas Eakins), and many worthy pieces by lesser-known painters (Henry Siddons Mowbray and Jean-Joseph Benjamin-Constant were both happy discoveries for me).