Mary Blair & Norman Rockwell at Hilbert Museum of California Art

Like many people my age I grew up watching Disney animated films and two of my very favorites are Cinderella and Peter Pan. As an adult I learned that their distinct style is due to the amazing concept art of Mary Blair. Of course, I became an immediate fan of her work and view it whenever I can. So, when I heard the Hilbert Museum of California Art just opened an exhibition called The Magic and Flair of Mary Blair I knew I had to see it ASAP.

The Hilbert Museum is fast becoming one of my favorite area art museums. With free admission and a boundless collection of beautiful California art it’s a joy to visit and The Magic and Flair of Mary Blair is a perfect fit for the institution.

On display through October 19, 2019 it features over 20 original paintings by the famed artist. Many of her Disney subjects are featured from Alice in Wonderland to The Three Caballeros to It’s A Small World and her indelible style is on full display. One of my favorite aspects of her work is her use of color. The subjects just pop off the canvas and viewing them fills me with happiness.

I was especially intrigued by her non-Disney work on display. In 1941 she visited South America on a research trip as part of the Good Neighbor Policy. On this trip she captured several vibrant images of South American life and those on display show that she’s as capable of capturing true life as she is at pure fantasy.

In addition to Mary Blair the museum is also featuring the work of Norman Rockwell in Sincerely Norman Rockwell: Celebrating a New Acquisition. Also on view through October 19, 2019 the exhibition is centered around the museum’s acquisition of his 1946 drawing Crestwood Commuter Station.

I must admit, I was never a big fan of Norman Rockwell. He’s an artist my grandma loved and I could never relate to his earnest depictions of mid-century life. But, I must admit, after viewing Crestwood Commuter Station I gained a new appreciation for the artist.

The graphite and charcoal rendering was used as a precursor to a painting for a 1946 edition of the Saturday Evening Post and viewing it made me realize what a true artist Norman Rockwell is. The amount of detail in the work is astounding and the image comes alive with activity. I’m still not a big fan of his paintings but viewing his drawings gave me a new appreciation of his work as a whole.

I thoroughly enjoyed both The Magic and Flair of Mary Blair and Norman Rockwell: Celebrating a New Acquisition and, after viewing them, gained a brand new perspective on each artist. The Hilbert Museum produced two wonderful exhibitions and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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