STOCKBRIDGE -- Milton Caniff, creator of Steve Canyon and Terry and the Pirates.

Al Capp, of Li'l Abner fame. Robert Fawcett, best-known for his illustrations of Sherlock Holmes in Colliers magazine in the 1940s. Austin Briggs, known for his work assisting the great Alex Raymond on Flash Gordon.

It is a heady roster, and those are only a small number of artists whose work has been donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.

The illustrations are not all finished drawings. They include paintings, doodles, scribblings and some photos. For years, the collection sat in a drafty warehouse in Danbury, Conn.

The work is from the archives of the Famous Artists School in Newport, Conn., an estimated 5,000 individual pieces in all. Rockwell was one of the school's founding members, along with New York commercial artist Albert Dorne.

It was recently donated to the Norman Rockwell Museum. The collection includes the work of Caniff, Capp and dozens of other famous artists, who acted as advisers to the thousands of students of the school.

The problem is, none of this work is catalogued. Laurie Norton Moffatt, director and CEO of the museum, estimates it will almost certainly take years to actually identify and catalog everything the museum has acquired.

But, she said, the museum is excited to acquire the artwork, which is presently crated up in a store room at the museum.

Museum officials already are planning several exhibitions of the work in a few years, after museum officials know exactly what they have. And not only exhibits at the Rockwell Museum. Moffatt said the museum is hoping to archive the artwork digitally to make it more widely available.

"It's such an important collection," she said. "An artists' correspondence school was a fairly novel idea, at least on this scale. In its heyday, the school had about 40,000 students."

In addition, she said, the collection is a valuable retrospective of an era when magazines, books and advertisers were looking for artists to illustrate their stories or advertisements.

To reach Derek Gentile:
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