In February 1959, Norman Rockwell appeared on Edward R. Murrow’s celebrity interview show, Person to Person. For decades, Rockwell had painted wholesome scenes of American life, and Murrow interviewed Rockwell at his home in the bucolic small town of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. On the program, the artist described how much he and his family loved living in Stockbridge, never mentioning, of course, that they had made the town their home because it was also home to the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric institute where his wife, Mary, had been receiving treatment. Several years earlier, at a challenging time in his life, Rockwell himself had entered therapy at Riggs with Erik Erikson, a renowned developmental psychoanalyst who is perhaps best known for coining the phrase, “identity crisis.” The two men, both giants in their fields, became both confidants and friends, and as revealed in this exhibition, their far-reaching discussions fueled and influenced aspects of their work.
The development of identity was among Erikson’s greatest concerns, both personally and as a theorist. He maintained that, from infancy to childhood, personality is formed in a predetermined order through eight stages of psychosocial development, garnering varied outcomes dependent upon one’s experience. Highly regarded for this work, Erikson had not always been certain about his direction and vocation. In his youth, he considered the possibility of life as an artist, and traveled through Germany and Italy where he sold or traded artworks along the way.
Designed in collaboration with the Austen Riggs Center—a vital therapeutic community now in its 100th year—the exhibition will explore the relationship of the artist and the psychoanalyst, who fueled each other’s creativity in unique and important ways. Rockwell and Erikson’s artworks, rare photographs, personal correspondence, and video installations will be on view.
Date: June 8 through October 27, 2019