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Famous Artists School archives donated to museum

Westport News
Published 5:18 pm, Friday, February 21, 2014
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The archives of the former Famous Artists School in Westport -- including more than 5,000 artworks -- have been donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., the museum announced.

The un-catalogued artwork includes original works by Rockwell, one of the school's founders, and by other prominent mid-20th century illustrators, the museum said.

A museum spokesman described the archives as "a major gift," although no dollar value was stated.

The Famous Artists School was founded in 1948 by Rockwell, artist Albert Dorne and several other illustrators. It became the country's most famous art-correspondence school during the 1950s and 1960s.

After Dorne died, however, it filed for bankruptcy in 1971, changed hands several times and today is based in Wilton.

The school now is owned by Cortina Learning International, which donated the archives to the Rockwell Museum, according to museum spokesman Jeremy Clowe.

Cortina's principals, Robert and Magdalen Livesey, decided they could not properly care for the archives, Clowe said in an email, and that the artwork would be better preserved by the Rockwell Museum, which is dedicated to illustration art.

The Rockwell Museum's collection began in 1974 when 125 of its namesake's paintings were placed with it in trust. With the estimated 5,000 pieces from the Famous Artists School, the museum's collection now numbers more than 13,000 pieces.

In a news release, the museum said it's aim is to develop "an encyclopedic collection of American illustration, creating a cultural context around its signature Norman Rockwell collection."

The estimated 5,000 artworks in the donated archive might prove to be a conservative estimate, Clowe said. The museum has only begun to go through it.

The archive also includes photographs, course outlines and correspondence.

With a headquarters along the Saugatuck River, the Famous Artists School in its prime had 65,000 students enrolled in its correspondence courses.

The school's advertisements were featured in a number of magazines and on the back covers of comic books of the 1950s and 1960s. The ads usually featured either Rockwell or Dorne at an easel. The headline under their pictures said, "We're looking for people who like to draw."