World Premiere Exhibition Traces Fantasy Illustration through Five Centuries

STOCKBRIDGE, MA—Norman Rockwell Museum (NRM) reveals the first exhibition of its kind, Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration. The show includes 100+ works of art created by more than 50 artists whose work spans over five centuries, and have never before been exhibited together.

Donato Giancola, St. George and the Dragon, 2010, © Donato Giancola

Several years in the making, NRM curator Jesse Kowalski assembled an encompassing collection of work to accurately represent the scope and breadth of Fantasy art. Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration explores fantasy archetypes from Ancient Mesopotamia to today. The exhibition will present the immutable concepts present within mythology, fairy tales, and timeless narratives of good versus evil and heroes and villains.  told through paintings, etchings, drawings, sculptures, and digital art created by imaginative artists from long ago to today. The ageless fascination with Fantasy art in popular culture can be witnessed in blockbuster films such as The Lord of the Rings trilogy andtelevision series like Games of Thrones, (and the books which preceded them),  and in role-playing games Dungeons & Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.  Artworks from all of these fantastic worlds will be included in the exhibition, many on view to the public for the first time.

Mythology explores the adventures of Apollo and Thor, the huntress Diana, Perseus rescuing Andromeda with the head of Medusa, and the labors of Hercules. Fairy tales depict the worlds of dragons, elves, fairies, and mermaids, and conjure dreams of Little Nemo in Slumberland, Alice in Wonderland, and Cinderella. Heroes and villains follow the exploits of Arthurian legends, Prince Valiant, Conan the Barbarian, and The Lord of the Rings; and haunting images of sorcerers and witches, and battles between angels and demons depict the struggle between good and evil.

Artists showcased in the exhibition include:
Unknown artists from Ancient Mesopotamia through the Renaissance, in addition to works by Albrecht Dürer, Martin Schongauer, and others.

Pre-Raphaelite artists: Herbert James Draper and Elihu Vedder.

International artists of the 19th century: William-Adolphe Bougeureau, Palmer Cox, Richard Doyle, Gustave Doré, Zacharie Charles Landelle, Jules Joseph Lefebvre, and Arthur Rackham.

Artists from the Golden Age of Illustration: Joseph Clement Coll, Dean Cornwell, Rockwell Kent, J.C. Leyendecker, Winsor McCay, Rose O’Neill, Violet Oakley, Maxfield Parrish, Coles Phillips, Howard Pyle, J. Allen St. John, and N.C. Wyeth.

Nico Delort, The Blessing of Athena, 2015, © Nico Delort

An artwork from Outsider artist Henry Darger.

Pioneers of fantasy illustration: Hannes Bok, Virgil Finlay, Hal Foster, Frank Frazetta, and Roy Krenkel.

Fantasy artists working in the late-20th century: Julie Bell, Thomas Blackshear, Brom, Kinuko Craft, Tony DiTerlizzi, Jeff Easley, Bob Eggleton, Larry Elmore, Scott Fischer, Kelly Freas, Brian Froud, Donato Giancola, Gary Gianni, James Gurney, Scott Gustafson, the Brothers Hildebrandt, Jeff Jones, Gregory Manchess, Mike Mignola, Jean-Baptiste Monge, Glen Orbik, Ruth Sanderson, William Stout, David Trampier, Boris Vallejo, Charles Vess, James Warhola, Michael Whelan, David Wiesner, and others.

The newest generation of illustrators: Scott Brundage, Wesley Burt, Bastien Lecouffe-Deharme, Anna Dittmann, Heather Edwards, Justin Gerard, Piotr Jabłoński, Tyler Jacobson, Victo Ngai, Ben Oliver, Karla Ortiz, Anthony Palumbo, David Palumbo, Alessandra Pisano,  Annie Stegg Gerard, Justin Sweet, Eric Velhagen, and many more.

Even a rare Rockwell fantasy work is included, Land of Enchantment from 1934.

Some of the artists mentioned above completed original work specifically for this exhibition. In addition, numerous pieces in the exhibit on loan from museums around the nation and private collections are rarely on view to the public–from engravings from the Middle Ages to the iconic Black Lotus painting created for Magic: The Gathering.

About Fantasy Illustration

Gary Gianni, Daenerys Targaryen, 2019
Image © Gary Gianni. All Rights Reserved

Fantasy presents an impossible reality—a universe where dragons breathe fire, angels and demons engage in combat, and magicians craft spells. As visionary author Arthur C. Clarke noted, “Science fiction is something that could happen… Fantasy is something that couldn’t happen.” and imaginative worlds of magic and adventure come to life through fantasy illustration. Myths, legends, fables, romance, and epic battles involving swords and sorcery occur in a world unfamiliar to us. Unlike science fiction, which is based on fact.

For thousands of years, mankind has depicted analogous fantastic themes in numerous cultures. Noted scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell, claimed that mankind creates fantasy to help us understand the universe and our existence, delineate good and evil, and teach us how to thrive through adversity. Representations of dreams and nightmares, fictional creatures, and gods and monsters are made real through visual portrayals in fantasy art. Fantasy illustration interprets the imagination of the “undiscovered self.”

Accompanying the exhibition will be a 256 page companion catalogue featuring an introduction by Brian Froud and essays by regarded illustrators and historians will be available online and in the Museum store.

The exhibition Enchanted: A History of Fantasy Illustration is organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA, and will be on view here from June 12 through October 31, 2021. This exhibition will travel nationally to a limited number of additional museums in 2021 and 2022.

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