Every so often you stumble onto something that just blows you away and you feel compelled to tell the whole world about it. This was indeed the case this past weekend when my wife and I had an opportunity to visit The National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, R.I. The museum is a relatively new attraction in Newport having been founded by Lawrence and Judy Cutler back in 1998. We had never even heard of it but trust me this is a place we definitely intend to visit again. TheNational Museum of American Illustration is located at Vernon Court, a magnificent Gilded Age mansion located in the heart of Newport on Bellevue Avenue. The collection features original paintings and drawings created by many of America's foremost illustrators including Thomas Nast, FrankSchoonover, Howard Pyle, N.C. Wyeth, Maxwell Parrish and Norman Rockwell to name but a few. In fact, this summer visitors to the museum will be treated to an impressive exhibition of NormanRockwell's work featuring more than 50 of his original paintings. As far as I am concerned that alone is worth the price of admission!
So just how do you define "illustration art" and why is this art form so important? Illustration artists created images that were intended for reproduction in books, magazines and newspapers. This really was art for the masses. The "Golden Age of American Illustration" is generally considered to be the 100 year period from 1860 to 1960. One of the very first of these illustrators was Thomas Nast who is generally considered to be "The Father of the American Cartoon". Nast drew for Harper's Weekly from 1859 to 1886. You will find impressive examples of his work at the museum. During the first half of the 20th century the most popular of the American illustrators was generally considered to be Maxfield Parrish. You will find Parrish's stunning and colorful illustrations in books, magazines and on numerous posters and calendars from this period. His work is also amply represented at The National Museum of American Illustration. Like many Americans I count myself a huge fan of the work of Norman Rockwell. For more than four decades Rockwell's depictions of everyday life in America adorned the cover of the wildly popular Saturday Evening Post magazine. I must tell you that I was like a kid in a candy store perusing the dozens of original Rockwell paintings on display at the museum. Norman Rockwell had the uncanny ability to evoke the full range of emotions from his audience. So many of his paintings were simply unforgettable. He truly was an American Master.
For far too long the work of the great American illustrators was relegated to second-class status within the art world. This fabulous museum created by Lawrence and Judy Cutler has gone a long way in helping to correct this unforgivable situation. As a result of their efforts "illustration art" has taken its rightful place alongside other schools and movements in the fine arts spectrum. If you ever find yourself in Newport I urge you to pay a visit to The National Museum of American Illustration. You will discover that the American Imagists not only created exceptionally beautiful paintings, but also gave us a lasting visual record of our cultural heritage. Definitely a "must see"! Very highly recommended!
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Paul Tognetti (drifter51)
I guess I would qualify as a frustrated writer. My work requires very little writing and so since 1999 I have been writing reviews on non-fiction books and anthology CD's on amazon.com. I never could … more
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