Huntsville, Ala. – The Huntsville Museum of Art (HMA) is thrilled to announce the opening of two shows: Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, and Secrets Behind the Wall: The Don Trachte Replicas. Both exhibitions will be on view at the Museum for general admission until January 28, 2018.
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum and is the first exhibition to delve deeply into Rockwell’s richly detailed study photographs, created by the artist as references for his iconic paintings. Organized with author and guest curator, Ron Schick, the exhibition reveals a rarely seen, yet fundamental aspect of Rockwell’s creative process and unveils a significant new body of Rockwell imagery in an unexpected medium and showcases the behind-the-scenes shots as works of art themselves.
Don Trachte was a cartoonist who became close friends with Norman Rockwell. In 1962, Trachte bought Norman Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties for $900 and it quickly became his most prized possession. In 2002, Trachte loaned Breaking Home Ties to an exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum. It wasn’t until 2005, a year after Trachte’s death, the Trachte family discovered a false wall in Trachte’s studio concealing Rockwell’s original Breaking Home Ties, along with seven other paintings by artists including Gene Pelham, Mead Schaeffer, and George Hughes.
Trachte’s sons believe he may have painted the nearly exact copies to prevent his estranged wife from ever obtaining the original artworks, which remained hidden for the next 32 years. Secrets Behind the Wall: The Don Trachte Replicas is organized by the National Museum of American Illustration and showcases Trachte’s replicas alongside many of the original paintings.
In celebration of the opening of Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera and Secrets Behind the Wall: The Don Trachte Replicas, the Museum Board of Directors will host a Presentation and Opening Party on the evening of Thursday, November 9, 2017. The presentation will include two exciting special guests who both have histories with the artists, followed by cocktails and passed canapés by Chef Narvell. Guests will also enjoy live music by a string trio from the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra.
“Growing up in Manchester, Vermont, just ten miles north of Rockwell’s studio, friends of my parents who modeled for Rockwell often shared their wonderful stories with us,” remarked HMA Executive Director Christopher J. Madkour. “Sadly, many of Rockwell’s models are no longer with us; However, I am very fortunate that my parent’s friend and former Rockwell model, Mary Whalen Leonard, has accepted my invitation to speak at our opening event,” continued Madkour. “This evening will be a rare opportunity for our members and guests to enjoy hearing tales of Mary’s time as a Rockwell model, as well as an intriguing story from Don Trachte, Jr. where he will weave an operatic proportion of love, betrayal and reward!”
The first speaker at the event will be former Rockwell model, Mary Whalen Leonard, who was featured in the Saturday Evening Post cover, A Day in the Life of a Girl. As a part of his creative process, Rockwell would use friends and neighbors as models to pose for study photographs that he would later use to create his paintings. This process brought a flesh-and-blood realism to his work and opened a window to the keenly observed authenticity that defines his art.
“‘Behind the Camera’ is a place where I have been,” said Mary Whalen Leonard. “I am excited to visit Huntsville and I look forward to sharing my experiences as a young girl posing for Norman Rockwell in Arlington, Vermont. I have plenty of stories regarding Norman Rockwell’s creative process as he worked with a child model,” Leonard continued. “How wonderful that Huntsville is going to have time to spend with Norman Rockwell!”
The second speaker at the opening event will be Don Trachte’s son, Don Trachte, Jr. “I am truly looking forward to my visit to the Huntsville Museum of Art! My communications with HMA staff have been very warm and helpful, and reminds me of the people I grew up with in the little town of Arlington, Vermont,” remarked Don Trachte, Jr. “Of course it is the town that Norman Rockwell did some of his finest work and was inspired to paint America the way he saw it and the way he believed it could be. His last picture in Arlington was called Breaking Home Ties, a very moving and emotional scene about a young man leaving home. I have an interesting story around this painting that led to a sleuthing investigation by my brother and myself, and a discovery that left people speechless. I am looking forward to sharing this saga of the mystery behind the wall.”
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is made possible through the help of our sponsors: Presenting Sponsors: Julie and Bob Broadway & Family; Lead Corporate Sponsor: IBERIABANK; Exhibition Sponsors: Kathy and C.H. “Tony” Chan, Butch and Jerry Damson, Iron Mountain Solutions, Connie and Rusty Stephenson, Walmart, Dr. Ruth and Allen Yates; Friends of Rockwell: Dr. and Mrs. Brian M. Scholl; Media Sponsors: Curtis Licensing, a division of The Saturday Evening Post, and Alabama Media Group; Additional Support Provided by: The Alabama State Council on the Arts, Altherr Howard Design, The Huntsville Museum of Art Guild, and The Keelan Family Foundation.
For more information about these two exhibits and to see what else is happening at the Museum, visit www.hsvmuseum.org.
About Norman Rockwell
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a 20th-century American author, painter and illustrator whose works appealed to a broad population in the United States for its reflection of American culture. Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over a period of nearly five decades.