If you love Norman Rockwell, you’ve likely got a thing for Mark Twain, too. They’re both popular American masters who captured their respective eras with a mix of verité and humor. Now, for the first time, their works are being exhibited together.
American Storytellers: Norman Rockwell & Mark Twain is on view through September 6 at the Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, CT. Organized with the help of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the show looks into both artists’ idealized depictions of childhood, and offers a chance to get an up-close peek at a number of rarely seen Rockwells. In addition to paintings on loan from the Rockwell Museum and the New Britain Museum of American Art, the exhibit features limited-edition lithographs of Rockwell’s pencil drawings, originally commissioned by the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company in the 1950s and ’60s.
Also on view, naturally, are Rockwell’s illustrations for Twain’s Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Walking through the exhibit, it’s easy to forget, for a moment, that the writer and the artist never crossed paths in real life. In fact, the two were born nearly 60 years apart, and by the time Rockwell’s first Saturday Evening Post cover was published (in 1916, when he was 22-years-old), Twain had been dead for six years. That fact makes this in-gallery meeting of their works, and the resulting synchronicity, especially captivating.