The Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA is much improved since our last visit about 10 years ago. More parking, more attractive landscaping, and best of all, a new building. All to the good.
While it’s always nice to visit with old friends, i.e. Norman Rockwell, the impetus for this visit was the new exhibit — Edward Hopper as Illustrator. The exhibit runs through October 26, 2014. This is a must-see, eye-opener for Hopper fans and students of early 20th century illustration.
If you’re familiar with Hopper, you know he did watercolors and etchings as well as his better-known oils. But you do you know that he spent the first 20 years of his career as an illustrator? Hopper thought of himself as a fine artist from a young age. But his parents convinced him to work as a commercial artist — which he hated — to make a living.
Hopper’s early illustrations, for books, magazine covers and posters, were competent but undistinguished. His later illustrations, enlivened by his developing personal style and interests are exceptional. Still, his commercial illustrations rarely equaled those of his contemporaries. Pyle, Wyeth, Parrish and Rockwell all enjoyed their work and knew it was “art.” Hopper kept fighting it.
The Hopper exhibition at the Rockwell Museum also includes an insightful video. Altogether, it’s a joy for Hopper fans and a bonus for Rockwell aficionados. Make the trip if you can.