Thursday, September 6, 2007
Yesterday Jeanette and I recharged our inspirational batteries with a visit to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The museum is hosting a major retrospective of American illustrator Al Parker called “Ephemeral Beauty: Al Parker and the American Women’s Magazine, 1940-1960.”
Curator Stephanie Plunkett showed us the actual fan letter that Rockwell wrote to his friend Parker in 1948, saying “While the rest of us are working knee-deep in a groove, you are forever changing and improving. You have brought more freshness, charm, and vitality to illustration than any other living illustrator.”
Over 80 works by Parker and his contemporaries demonstrate how Parker's compositional ingenuity and freshness of concept influenced all his peers. Parker originated the extreme close-up portrait, and created the acclaimed “mother and daughter” covers for the Ladies’ Home Journal between 1939 and 1952, which are collected in an array of tearsheets and original paintings.
Illustrators in particular will appreciate seeing Parker’s informal sketches, photo reference, tearsheets, and letters from art directors. The catalog includes a fascinating article by Alice Carter on the history of the American women’s magazines. Other essays explore how, after World War II, magazine illustrators like Parker played a powerful role in shaping the styles and aspirations of everyday Americans. The exhibition will be on view though October 28.
If you want to see more of Parker's work on the Web, don’t miss the fascinating Flickr collection by Leif Peng in Today’s Inspiration, as well as a good article with more links by Charley Parker in Lines and Colors (scroll down to Sunday March 11)
We’ll be back to the Rockwell Museum sometime this winter, because they’ll be hosting a groundbreaking graphic novel exhibition starting in November.