In 1952—at the peak of the Cold War, and two years into the Korean War—Norman Rockwell drafted an image of the United Nations, intending to portray the young organization and its Security Council members as a global symbol of hope. United Nations (1953) only reached a final drawing stage, though Rockwell’s similarly-themed 1961 painting Golden Rule was eventually installed as a large mosaic in the UN building. This summer, Stockbridge, Massachusetts’ Norman Rockwell Museum will honor the 70th anniversary of the international organization with an unparalleled Rockwell exhibition at the UN headquarters.
The show, titled “We the Peoples,” features 33 original artworks in total and will run from June 20 until September 15. The large-scale glass mosaic Golden Rule (a 40th-anniversary gift from Nancy Reagan) and the United Nations drawing will be among the works on view, along with a series of early 1960s travel paintings, spontaneous oil portraits of Indian and Russian citizens, sketches made during the artist’s 1955 worldwide trip for a PanAm advertising campaign, two paintings of Peace Corps workers in India, and digital reproductions of his famous Civil Rights-era paintings.
On June 29, a reception for the exhibition will be attended by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, the latter of whom played an instrumental role during the exhibition’s conception.
In a statement, Ki-moon said, “It is a reminder that the United Nations remains the home and hope of ‘we the peoples,’” while museum director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt said,
Norman Rockwell was a keen observer of people and believed that every person mattered. As he matured as an artist, his subject matter frequently addressed issues of social change and our common humanity. We are honored to be partnering with the United Nations, at the invitation of Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, for this special exhibition commemorating the 70th anniversary of the organization’s peacekeeping efforts. Eliasson believes that Norman Rockwell’s artwork captures the humanitarian aims of the United Nations and embodies ideals for all people. Indeed, his interest in portraying international figures, America’s civil rights movement, the early work of the Peace Corps and the United Nations, and The Four Freedoms (soon to celebrate their own 75th anniversary), informed and helped shape civil society in America. We are proud to be able to share this inspiring and heartfelt display of his work from our permanent collection.