(STOCKBRIDGE, Mass.) – Norman Rockwell Museum, Chesterwood, and the Mahaiwe are teaming up to commemorate the centennial of the Lincoln Memorial, the centerpiece of which is The Lincoln Memorial Illustrated exhibition at Norman Rockwell Museum, on view from May 7 through September 5, 2022. Created in collaboration with Chesterwood — the historic summer home and studio of the statue’s famed sculptor Daniel Chester French — the exhibition will highlight the work of noted artists who have incorporated the instantly recognizable icon as a symbolic element.
More than 50 historical and contemporary multimedia artworks will showcase and contextualize the Memorial’s cultural significance, including original paintings and illustrations, archival photographs, sculptural elements, artifacts, published ephemera, and a selection of Norman Rockwell’s original and published art featuring Lincoln, and related memorabilia from his own collection. A montage of films incorporating the Memorial — from Logan’s Run to Forrest Gump and Planet of the Apes — and a short documentary narrating the story of the Memorial’s construction, will offer insights into the monument’s history and prominence in popular culture.
Daniel Chester French (1850-1931) and Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) were American masters who achieved the highest acclaim in their chosen fields. Both were longtime Stockbridge, Mass., residents — French, at the peak of his career, in 1896, purchased an old farmstead in the Berkshires, where he established a summer home and studio, and Rockwell spent his last 25 years in town, where he found inspiration for many of his most significant works.
“Lincoln clearly captivated the imaginations of both artists,” notes deputy director/chief curator Stephanie Haboush Plunkett. “No other statesman appears more frequently in Rockwell’s work than Lincoln, who was featured in eight paintings between 1927 and 1964—an affirmation of his professed belief that Lincoln was the greatest American president.”
Dedicated in May 1922, the Lincoln Memorial has come to symbolize both the hopes and challenges of our nation, an almost sacred space for civic expression focusing on race relations and human rights. In 1939, when the Daughters of the American Revolution denied African-American contralto Marian Anderson the right to perform in Constitution Hall, Eleanor Roosevelt and Secretary of Interior Harold L. Ickes arranged for an Easter Sunday performance on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial for an in-person audience of 75,000 and many more on nationwide radio. Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, a pinnacle of the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and of the civil rights movement, invoked Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address to inspire national unity. More recently, in 2018, thousands gathered at the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial for the Women’s March, a rally honoring the political power of women and their communities to create societal change.
“The iconic seated figure of Abraham Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial is notably the crowning achievement of Daniel Chester French’s artistic career,” says Donna Hassler, executive director of Chesterwood. “We are pleased to have this opportunity to celebrate the centennial of America’s most beloved monument and work with the outstanding curatorial staff at the Norman Rockwell Museum on this special exhibition.”
In popular culture, the Lincoln Memorial’s presence and meaning has made it a significant symbol in countless books, films, and television programs. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, The Day the Earth Stood Still, Planet of the Apes, X-Men, Forrest Gump, and Purge: The Election Year are among the more than 60 films in which it has appeared.
This exhibition is organized by Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, deputy director/chief curator and Barbara Rundback, registrar, at the Norman Rockwell Museum, in close collaboration with Donna Hassler, executive director, and Dana Pilson, curatorial researcher, at Chesterwood.
Following its close at the Norman Rockwell Museum, the exhibition will travel to the Concord Museum in Concord, Mass., where it will be on view from September 22, 2022 to February 26, 2023.
OPENING & RELATED PROGRAMS
Saturday, May 7, 2022 at Norman Rockwell Museum
Exhibition Opening, and Stockbridge Day
The Lincoln Memorial Illustrated exhibition opens to the public. Free for members and Stockbridge, Mass. residents* (with ID). Town residents are welcomed with a special treat and encouraged to visit both properties to celebrate their hometown artists, with advance reservations required. *NRM and Chesterwood offer full-time Stockbridge residents free general admission throughout their respective seasons.
Saturday, May 7, 2022 / 2 – 3pm at Norman Rockwell Museum
The Living Memorial: Daniel Chester French’s Lincoln at 100
An illustrated talk by Harold Holzer
The author of the award-winning Monument Man: The Life and Art of Daniel Chester French explores the 50-year career of the great American sculptor and his greatest achievement: the iconic Lincoln statue on the National Mall. How did French prepare for his biggest challenge? How did he find inspiration in the Berkshires? And how has the Lincoln Memorial achieved immortality in American art, iconography, history, and tradition?
In-person at Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge Room
Live online via NRM Zoom
Limited seating. Tickets: $10 for in-person and Zoom, free for NRM & Chesterwood members
Reservations: required for in-person and Zoom via Norman Rockwell Museum.
Thursday, May 26, 2022 / 7pm at Mahaiwe Performing Arts Center, Great Barrington
Chesterwood’s Documentary Film Premiere
Daniel Chester French: American Sculptor explores French’s formative years and his contributions to public sculpture, a lifetime commitment which ultimately led to hundreds of public monuments and memorials spread out across the United States. Screening will be followed by a panel discussion and reception. Tickets at the Mahaiwe
Monday, May 30, 2022 / Noon-3pm at Chesterwood
Lincoln Memorial Centennial
Chesterwood will celebrate the centennial of the dedication of the Lincoln Memorial, French’s most iconic creation and one of the most visited memorials in the United States. A highlight of the historic studio at Chesterwood is French’s six-foot model of the seated Lincoln. Family-friendly activities, live music by the Berkshire Jazz Collective, a special Lincoln tour, and readings from the memorial dedication event 100 years ago, all at reduced admission. Picnics are welcome. More information at Chesterwood
ABOUT NORMAN ROCKWELL
Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.
ABOUT DANIEL CHESTER FRENCH
Daniel Chester French attained prominence as the leading American monumental sculptor of the early twentieth century. Born in Exeter, New Hampshire, he spent his youth in Cambridge and Amherst, Massachusetts, before moving with his family to Concord in 1867. That fall he entered the Massachusetts Institute of Technology but withdrew after two semesters. French began his first serious study of sculpture during the winter of 1868–69, receiving modeling supplies and lessons from Abigail May Alcott. His brief formal art training consisted of a month-long apprenticeship with John Quincy Adams Ward in 1870, supplemented by evening drawing classes at the National Academy of Design.
French’s first foray into public art came in 1873, when his hometown of Concord, through the auspices of family friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, commissioned The Minute Man (1871–75; Minuteman National Historic Park) to commemorate the centennial of the Battle of Concord.
Some of French’s most illustrious monumental sculpture was executed in conjunction with American architects at the forefront of the City Beautiful Movement. For the entrance to McKim, Mead & White’s Boston Public Library, French completed three sets of bronze doors (1894–1904), adeptly modeling single female figures in low relief to ornament each valve. French’s imposing seated figure Alma Mater (1900–1903) is installed on the steps of McKim’s Low Library at Columbia University. His most steadfast architect colleague was Henry Bacon; their years of fruitful creativity on nearly fifty projects reached an apogee in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., for which French completed the massive seated Lincoln (1911–22), his best known sculpture.
ADDITIONAL ARTISTS INCLUDE:
Henry Bacon, Garin Baker, Istvan Banyai, Tony Bennett, R O Blechman, Ernie Chan, John Darkow, Matt Davies, Sean Delonas, Stevan Dohanos, Alan Dunn, Shawn Fields, Daniel Chester French, Abraham Garfield, Mitch Gerard, Chad Gowey, James Gurney, Harris & Ewing, Paul Hoffmaster, David Horsey, John C. Johansen, Steve Lieber, Bill Mauldin, Mark McKenna, Sebastian Miniatures, Todd Nauck, Patrick Olphiant, Joseph Pennell, Edgar Pine, John R. Pope, Norman Rockwell, Fitz Simmons, Bob Staake, Tom Stiglich, Underwood & Underwood, Leonard Volk, H. Wrobel.