Salt Lake City celebration features works from the National Scouting Museum.
From July 20 to December 2013, you’ll have an extra reason to visit Salt Lake City. As part of the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of the partnership between the Boy Scouts of America and The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, the National Scouting Museum is staging a special art exhibit at the magnificent Church History Museum.
“American Originals: Norman Rockwell and Scouting” features 24 pieces by Rockwell, the famed illustrator whose work became synonymous with Scouting during his more than 60-year association with BSA. In addition, visitors will see works by Joseph Csatari, Rockwell’s friend and colleague who succeeded him as Scouting’s official artist, Dean Cornwell, and other artists. The exhibit will also include BSA cultural artifacts (vintage hats, shoulder cords and neckerchiefs from the 1950s, and Boys’ Life covers), documentary photographs of Rockwell’s creative process, and other memorabilia.
The artworks were selected by Corry Kanzenberg, curator of exhibitions and collections at the National Scouting Museum in Irving, Texas, which houses more than 600,000 objects from the movement’s history. Kanzenberg, a noted Rockwell authority who previously oversaw archival collections at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., talked with Scouting about Rockwell’s working style and some of the historic works on display in Salt Lake City.
“The National Scouting Museum is home to 57 artworks by Rockwell, the largest public collection outside of his namesake museum,” says Kanzenberg. “We wanted to show the whole breadth of his work for the Boy Scouts. So we begin with illustrations that date from the 19-teens, and we have art representing every decade he worked for the BSA through the 1970s.”
Kanzenberg says Rockwell had a specific way of planning and completing an illustration, a process that the exhibit will explain with documentary photographs. Rockwell would start with an idea, perhaps for a campfire scene or a group of Scouts planting a tree. Then he would create thumbnail sketches, finally settling on one he liked before bringing models into the studio. Kanzenberg notes that as early as 1929, Rockwell worked from photos as a main reference point. Before that, he used models that would sit as he worked.
“Once he got the models into the studio,” Kanzenberg says, “he worked more as a director, showing them how to pose. He knew exactly what he wanted—the expressions, the stances. A photographer would then take their picture. He worked with 20 to 100 photographs depending on how detailed the image was going to be.”
Rockwell used the photos to create a charcoal study about the same size as his canvas, after which he projected the image onto the canvas. This creative process produced many of the works featured in the LDS-BSA celebration. We asked Kanzenberg to comment on a few of them: