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Hagerstown Museum Loans Major Painting to Exhibition

Photo Cap: Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978), The Oculist, 1956, oil on canvas, Museum Purchase, 1957, A934.

Hagerstown Museum Loans Major Painting to Exhibition

Hagerstown, MD: The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts in Hagerstown, Maryland has said good-bye to one of its most popular paintings - but only through August 2009. The Oculist, by Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), was sent to Middlebury College in Vermont to be included in an exhibition entitled Making Sense of Thomas Kinkade, on view from May 21 through August 9, 2009 at Middlebury College Museum of Art.
The Oculist appeared on the cover of the May 19, 1956 issue of the Saturday Evening Post. Purchased by the Museum directly from the artist in 1957, the oil on canvas is one of the most recognized pieces in the Museum's collection and is very popular with Museum visitors and patrons. "This is an exhibition that I have long wanted to see at Middlebury and the idea behind it is to try to understand the nature and sources of Kinkade's work," stated Richard H. Saunders, Director and Professor at Middlebury College Museum of Art. He added, "Kinkade reworks the romantic, picturesque and unspoiled landscape of nineteenth century America along with Norman Rockwell' s nostalgic Americana. The Oculist, with its classic American subject matter, makes it a very compelling argument as to why Kinkade found Rockwell an ideal spiritual model."
Guest curator, Michael Clapper, Associate Professor of Art History at
Franklin & Marshall College stated, "I analyze the pictorial structure and the meanings of Kinkade's images by comparing them to some of his artistic sources, especially his hero Norman Rockwell. The common thread that ties together the art that has most influenced Kinkade is a search for relief from the pressures and shortcomings of modern life."
Rockwell is Kinkade's artistic hero and The Oculist exemplifies the connection and the difference between them. Like Rockwell, Kinkade deliberately idealizes life and uses art as a way to supply what he lacked as a child - a warm, caring family and community. Yet unlike Kinkade, Rockwell was self-conscious about the construction of images and maintained a skeptical distance from the earnest emotions he depicted.
"The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts is pleased to be a part of the exhibition that Middlebury College Museum of Art has put together," noted Museum Director, Rebecca Massie Lane. She added, "Comparing the work by Kinkade to that of Norman Rockwell investigates not only Kinkade' s sources, but also studies the sociology of artistic taste in America."
Saunders added, "It is easy to dismiss the work of the contemporary landscape painter Thomas Kinkade as kitsch and brush aside his popularity as only a successful marketing phenomenon. But to do so, ignores his sincere zeal and the deep resonance his work holds for many people." For more information about the exhibit at Middlebury College Museum of Art, contact the museum at 802-443-5007. For more information on the Washington
County Museum of Fine Arts, please phone 301-739-5727 or visit Museum hours are Tuesday-Friday, 9am to 5pm, Saturday, 9am to 4pm, and Sunday, 1 to 5pm.

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