Celebrate 2022: ’Tis the season for festive exhibits

Norman Rockwell’s “Christmas Homecoming” from 1948, a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post on Dec. 25, 1948, is an oil-on-canvas work on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
Norman Rockwell’s “Christmas Homecoming” from 1948, a cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post on Dec. 25, 1948, is an oil-on-canvas work on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.

CELEBRATE 2022 – Jan Brett has a knack for capturing the cheer — and the chilliness — of the winter season.

The artist’s name is synonymous with classic children’s books such as “The Mitten” and “The Hat,” though she’s written and illustrated an ever-expanding list of others. Her detailed illustrations and heartwarming stories have captivated little ones and adults alike.

Some of those stories come to life in “Jan Brett: Stories Near and Far,” on view at the Albany Institute of History & Art. It features 120 of Brett’s original illustrations from 22 of her books, including some older favorites and newer works.

Brett, who lives in Massachusetts, began her illustration career in the 1970s, and her art appeared in books written by other authors. The 1981 release of “Fritz and the Beautiful Horses” marked the first book she both wrote and illustrated, and since then she’s mainly written and illustrated her own books.

Most of her stories reflect the wildlife and cultures she’s encountered while traveling with her husband, Joseph Hearne, a bassist for the Boston Symphony Orchestra. That includes depictions of Alaskan musk ox, featured in one of her latest books, “Cozy.” It follows a musk ox who helps shield other Arctic animals from the cold.

In one stunning watercolor-and-pencil illustration featured in the exhibit, Cozy shelters a snowshoe hare, a fox and other creatures underneath his fur, which hangs down to the snow-covered ground. Behind them is a vibrant sky filled with the greens and blues of the Northern Lights.

Elsewhere in the exhibit are illustrations of perhaps a more familiar holiday favorite: “Gingerbread Baby.” Kids can follow the tiny gingerbread’s confectionary adventures, with scenes that are overflowing with holiday candies and cakes.

There are also festive and impressively detailed scenes from “The Nutcracker” as well as a few illustrations from Brett’s “The Animals’ Santa,” featuring a snowy owl donning a red cap and basket full of treats and toys hung across its side.

More: Celebrate 2022 – Traditions, Food, Gifts, Memories

Another standout is a vivid illustration from the book “Who’s That Knocking on Christmas Eve?” depicting a cozy Nordic scene with a log cabin home at the foot of snowy mountains, the night sky a piercing shade of blue. Trolls are seen on the upper left and right edges, and intricately patterned snowflakes dot the foreground.

“Jan Brett: Stories Near and Far” is a joy to visit whether or not one has read Brett’s work, and perhaps a good cure for cabin fever during this frigid season. It will be on view through Dec. 31. The Albany Institute is located at 125 Washington Ave. For information, visit albanyinstitute.org.

Stockbridge for the holidays
Norman Rockwell is perhaps the king of Christmas illustrators.

Each year, the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, dedicates a portion of its gallery space to the illustrator’s more festive, often tongue-in-cheek works.

One of the standouts is the sweeping panoramic “Home for Christmas (Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas).” The snow-covered street is lit up by the glow of a few businesses and the mountainous skyline in the background. Children skate in the street as families take wintry walks in the foreground. Cars are dusted with snow, and one is topped off with a sizable Christmas tree.

On view near the painting are archival photos of the actual buildings and a color oil study that offers insight into Rockwell’s methodical process in creating the famous painting.

Other favorites on view in “Norman Rockwell’s Spirit of the Holidays” include “The Discovery.” The boy at the center gasps after pulling out a Santa Claus costume, presumably from his parents’ dresser. It was the last in a long line of Christmas covers Rockwell illustrated for the Saturday Evening Post.

There’s also the cheerful “Tiny Tim and Bob Cratchit” and the somber “Son of David.”

Elsewhere in the museum, the holiday village is not to be missed, with its chugging train cars and snowy landscape. Children especially might want to check out “Eloise and More: The Life and Art of Hilary Knight,” an exhibit that explores the work of the illustrator behind Kay Thompson’s “Eloise” books. That exhibit will be up through March 12.

The Norman Rockwell Museum is located at 9 Route 183, Stockbridge. For information, visit nrm.org.

The model trains show is back at the Museum of Innovation and Science (miSci), bringing together chugging locomotives, spinning amusement park rides and a bustling freight yard.

The 19-by-27-foot display includes five tracks. Visitors young and old can control the trains, speeding them up as fast as they can go, turning on all the bells and whistles as the locomotives zoom past.

The display has become something of a holiday tradition at miSci and draws visitors from every generation — great-grandparents to young children, each of whom finds a different sort of connection with the trains. For the older folks, the display brings a sense of nostalgia; for the younger generations it brings a bit of excitement to the holidays.

The trains, carrying passengers and freight, whoosh through a vintage Plasticville set up on the main loop. A shorter loop features vintage equipment that loads logs onto the cars. The show highlights how trains transformed transportation and impacted the growth of the country.

The display will be on view through Jan. 15. MiSci is located at 15 Museum Drive, Schenectady.

For information, visit misci.org.

More: Celebrate 2022 – Traditions, Food, Gifts, Memories

Categories: Art, Celebrate 2022, Life and Arts, Life and Arts

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