Since its inception, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA has sought to expand its focus from a single artist to a relevant context and then more broadly to illustration in general.
In that spirit, the museum, through its associated Rockwell Center for American Visual Studies, has just launched a new web-based project: Illustration History: An educational resource and archive.
The intention appears to be the assembly of a large and sweeping overview of the illustration field, as seen in multiple aspects — a noble and ambitious goal.
The site has a section on history, seeking to put the whole in context, with increments of half-centruries or individual decades, but the primary focus of the site is on individual artists and genres.
The artist listings can be searched or browsed. Individual artist articles include an attempt to put them in context by linking to related artists and time periods; and there are selections of their work accessed from small thumbnails at page bottom. There is a promising mix of both historic and contemporary illustrators.
You can also browse through genres, or a master list of individual illustrations. Each illustration accessed that way has its own page, with medium, support, size and collection location when available. (Note that the “mobile-friendly” design of the website limits the size of the images on pages to the size of your browser window.)
The design has a few quirks to be worked out, but for the most part the designers have done a good job of bringing the subject matter forward (with the glaring exception of the obligatory social media buttons, which are not only unnecessarily repeated, but are intrusive and persistent to the point of being a genuine annoyance).
The selections and genres are a bit sparse yet, with few images and many glaring holes to be filled, as well as some odd inclusions. Ben Franklin is listed, for example, but there are no entries for Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac or other major European figures. I can only assume that the museum is starting at home with their own resources, which focus primarily on American illustration, and will expand out from there.
The project is in its nascent stages, and what we see is more the form of what will come, a field of saplings, as it were — but the site is certainly worth visiting at this point, and following as it develops.
Illustration History promises to be a wonderful resource.
[Via Gurney Journey]