Stockbridge, Mass. – As part of its 50th Anniversary celebration, the Norman Rockwell Museum presents Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated from June 8 through October 27, 2019. Featuring works by more than 40 artists—some on view for the first time—as well as archival materials, the exhibition illuminates how Rockwell and other illustrators reflected popular culture during the final year of the tumultuous decade. Comprising works culled from the Museum’s collection and private and public collections around the country, Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated is organized by Jesse Kowalski, Norman Rockwell’s Curator of Exhibitions. Norman Rockwell Museum is its only venue.
Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt notes “From its inception, 50 years ago, Norman Rockwell Museum has presented exhibitions that share our common humanity and reflect social change. Illustrators portrayed not only the events of the time—but captured the feelings, hopes, concerns, and spirit of the generation. The final year of the 1960s provides a wealth of illustrated works to explore in this exhibition, including many iconic images which continue to represent/signify the era.”
From man’s first steps on the moon to a gathering of 400,000 concertgoers on a farm in Upstate New York, 1969—the year of the Museum’s founding—witnessed momentous cultural transition. Following one of the darkest years in post-War America, in which Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy were slain, the U.S. military faced setbacks in the war in Vietnam with the Tet Offensive and the My Lai Massacre, and college students led campus protests, the events of 1969 symbolized a time of hope and contrasts.
Seminal works in the exhibition include Rockwell’s iconic depictions of the first moonwalk and of key events in the civil rights movement, presidential portraits, images of the war on poverty and the war in Vietnam, and his first rock album cover. Works by contemporaneous illustrators and designers will include the famous Woodstock concert poster by Arnold Skolnick, and examples of the inventive psychedelic art created that year for album covers, magazines, and posters.
Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated will be presented in two galleries of the Museum with sections devoted to the final edition of The Saturday Evening Post and Rockwell’s response, the news events of the year as illustrated by Rockwell and other artists, and the ways artists depicted the world of entertainment.
The exhibition opens with a look at the final issue of The Saturday Evening Post, for whom Rockwell worked for forty-seven years, from 1916 to 1963. The magazine debuted on August 4, 1821, though its story begins much earlier. In 1729 Benjamin Franklin purchased the newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette, which continued to run until 1800. In 1821, issues of The Saturday Evening Post began printing from the same machines as Franklin’s Gazette. While Rockwell had left the Post in 1963, he did create an illustration depicting a weeping Ben Franklin referencing the final issue of the Post, which was published in Atlantic Monthly later that year.
The second section examines the use of illustration to depict important news events during that pivotal year. Original artwork and archival material by Seymour Chwast, R. Crumb, Emory Douglas, John Berkey, and Wendell Minor will reference the Apollo 11 moon landing, President Nixon’s first year in office, underground comics, the war in Vietnam, and protests around the nation. The diverging styles of these illustrations speaks to the range of public emotions in a still turbulent time, striving for peace, order, and hope. Even though there were photographs of the first moon walk, illustrations of the landing were wildly popular, due to the unique ability of artists to evoke the excitement and hope that this extraordinary scientific and technological advancement inspired.
Among the highlights of the exhibition is The Final Impossibility: Man’s Tracks on the Moon (Two Men on the Moon), a story illustration for the December 30, 1969 issue of Look magazine, on special loan from the collection of the National Air and Space Museum, Smithsonian Institution. Rockwell went to the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston to do research and take photos for his illustration of the now historic July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing. The painting of Commander Neil A. Armstrong standing on the moon’s surface and pilot Edwin E. (Buzz) Aldrin, Jr. descending from the lunar module “Eagle” was, he said, the most complicated and difficult of his series of space program pictures.
The vibrant artwork created for music, films, television, books, and periodicals is the focus of the next sections of the exhibit. In 1969, Eric Carle and William Steig produced their award-winning children’s books, The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Sylvester and the Magic Pebble. Richard Scarry’s Best Storybook Ever was the New York Times bestselling children’s book in 1969. Original artwork by Carle and Steig will be on view along with examples of covers and ephemera. In Steig and Scarry’s work, we note the narrative use of animals with human qualities.
Sci-Fi novels were growing their followers/continued their popularity and illustration remained the primary tool to achieve fictional world. Here the exhibit explores works by Frank Frazetta, Jeff Jones, and others who gained fame painting popular science fiction book covers. Frazetta was leading a new generation of illustrators, while still greatly influenced by Golden Age artists. According to Frazetta’s daughter, while rarely discussing his work, the artist did reveal that Norman Rockwell was his primary inspiration. The painterly, realistic style also used by James Bama and Jeff Jones, contrasts with the more graphic and modern works by Paul Bacon, Peter Bramley, and Diane and Leo Dillon. In Bacon’s cover illustration for The Andromeda Strain, we see almost a digitally styled image, several years before computer design became commonplace.
One of the most exciting aspects of the field in 1969 was art created for the music industry. While photography was increasingly employed over illustration, both for time and cost effectiveness, musicians still looked to illustrators to represent their brand and the essence of their work on posters and album covers. Whether to evoke mood or capture the imagination, the music industry depended upon the creativity of illustrators to communicate with its audiences.
The headliner for the era was Woodstock, and Arnold Skolnick’s original poster for the festival begins this section of the exhibit. Skolnick used a clean, simple, yet bold graphic style, which he created in a few days for the concert organizers; he was paid $15 for his illustration. The former Brooklyn artist now resides in the Berkshires; his iconic guitar and dove poster remains his most notable work, and continues to be replicated in numerous ways. Other inventive and psychedelic illustration styles by artists such as Greg Irons and Randy Tuten are presented with vintage concert posters for Janis Joplin; Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young; The Byrds; and Procol Harum.
A spectrum of illustrated rock album
covers for The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine,
Led Zeppelin’s very first album, The Who’s Tommy,
The Grateful Dead, Santana, and Jethro Tull show the many varied styles in the
field of illustration. Artist Heinz Edelmann created the art for the Yellow Submarine film, album, and film
poster. Included in the exhibit will be a rare watercolor poster he created for
the film’s release in Italy.
Norman Rockwell makes an unexpected appearance in this section with his only album cover, The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. The musicians were Rockwell fans and requested the artist create their 1969 cover. Archival photos of Rockwell with Bloomfield and Kooper will also be on view.
Posters for new films in 1969, included a surprising number utilizing illustration. Hello, Dolly!, Paint Your Wagon, The Wrecking Crew, and other select works show stylistic graphic approaches that defined the era. Artist Richard Amsel uses a highly contemporary approach for the Hello Dolly! poster, greatly contrasting the film’s 1890s setting.
On view for the first time ever will be Basil Gogos’ original painting of Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster, painted for Famous Monsters of Filmland. Considered one of Gogos’ most famous works, he created it in memoriam of Boris Karloff, who died in February of 1969. The Gogos Frankenstein image has been replicated millions of times over.
The exhibit will also include advertisements, magazine covers, and comic books, including The New Yorker, National Lampoon, Batman, Archie, and an Army manual illustrated by Will Eisner. Experimental works by noted illustrators of the era, including Lorriane Fox, Saul Steinberg, Al Parker, Bernie Fuchs, Jacqui Morgan, and Bascove, also on view, pushed the envelope in reaction to the traditional narrative illustration of earlier years. In Lou Glantzman’s cover for National Lampoon, as well as others, we see a nod to Norman Rockwell with humorous parodies.
In addition to picture books, children experienced illustration through animation in the revolutionary new children’s television series Sesame Street, which debuted in 1969 merging animation, puppets, and live actors to promote early childhood education in a playful setting. Joan Ganz Cooney founded the Children’s Television Workshop, producer of Sesame Street, with the goal of using the power of television to educate children. Realistically portraying the changing times, Sesame Street looked different than other kids’ shows with an inner city setting and ethnically diverse performers. Just a year after its launch, the show had received its first of over 100 Emmy Awards, and Big Bird was featured on the cover of Time magazine.
The powerful voice of the public was spurring change to Saturday morning cartoons. Protesting parent-run groups demanding less violence in children’s TV cartoons led to the cancellation of numerous programs. Soon-after, cartoon-giant Hanna-Barbera’s storywriters Joe Ruby and Ken Spears, and artist/character designer Iwao Takamoto developed the popular and long-lasting Saturday morning cartoon series featuring a dog named Scooby-Doo. The exhibition features a digital compilation of moving images from 1969 including youth programming and Saturday morning cartoons, television clips highlighting the moon landing, Woodstock, Vietnam, the World Series, celebrity interviews, concert footage, and film trailers.
Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated takes the viewer on a visual journey through a highly transitional time reflected in the art of popular culture.
Celebrating Norman Rockwell Museum’s 50th Anniversary, Woodstock to the Moon: 1969 Illustrated is one in a suite of special exhibitions on view this year, being sponsored by Audrey and Ralph Friedner and TD Bank.
The Museum will feature related programs throughout the run of the exhibition with further details to be announced. For more information about the exhibition and related programs, visit www.nrm.org.
About the Norman Rockwell Museum
Celebrating its 50th Anniversary in 2019, the Norman Rockwell Museum is dedicated to education and art appreciation inspired by the legacy of Norman Rockwell. The Museum holds the world’s largest and most significant collection of art and archival materials relating to Rockwell’s life and work, while also preserving, interpreting, and exhibiting a growing collection of art by other American illustrators throughout history. The Museum engages diverse audiences through onsite and traveling exhibitions, as well as publications, arts and humanities programs, including the Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, and comprehensive online resources. www.nrm.org/
Located on 36 park-like acres in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Rockwell’s hometown for the last 25 years of his life, the Museum is open seven days a week, year-round; closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day. Museum hours from May through October are: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, open until 7 p.m. on Thursdays during the month of August; from November through April: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on weekends and holidays. Rockwell’s studio is open May through November 12, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Museum admission is $20, $18 for seniors, $17 for military veterans, $10 for students, and free for children 18 and under.
Norman Rockwell Museum welcomes EBT cardholders and active U.S. military members with free admission throughout the year. Additionally, we are a Blue Star museum and offer active U.S. military personnel and their immediate family, complimentary admission from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
Visit the Museum online at www.nrm.org.