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NORMAN ROCKWELL — Direct from the Private Vaults of STEVEN SPIELBERG and GEORGE LUCAS

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This July, two of America’s most famous — and wealthiest — cinematic storytellers, Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, are dipping into their private collections of invaluable Norman Rockwell originals for a one-of-a-kind exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Running from July 2nd through January 2011, the exhibit — entitled “Telling Stories” — will feature 57 of Rockwell’s works within the museum’s Osher Galleries. That makes it the largest collection of Rockwell paintings outside the rural Massachusetts museum devoted entirely the artist’s output.

The Smithsonian has yet to specify exactly which of Rockwell’s iconic images will be gracing their walls, but, given their donors’ deep pockets and dedication to the subject matter, expect some biggies. While Lucas drew on Rockwell’s classic brand of Americana in a big way for “American Graffiti”, Spielberg has much more well-documented ties to the revered Saturday Evening Post illustrator.

After a stolen Rockwell was discovered among the unknown depths of the director’s collection in 2007, Spielberg spokesman Martin Levy told the Los Angles Times: “He’s certainly one of the collectors of Rockwell… We have a few in our office on the Universal lot.”

It stands to reason that they will be returned shortly after the exhibition closes, making this once in a lifetime opportunity to view some seminal American classics up close and in the flesh — and just in time for Independence Day to boot. There’s still no word on if the directors are planning to slip any CGI-rendered “improvements” into Rockwell’s originals, however.

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