Alot of folks associate Norman Rockwell's paintings with saccharin-sweetened sentimental glurge. He's probably best known for works like this -
Like many other journeyman artists of his era, he earned his living drawing/painting illustrations for various publications/businesses. Nearly everyone is familiar with the many cover illustrations he provided for the Saturday Evening Post. Less well known are works such as these -
His skill as an artist has never been in question, however, he has frequently been criticized (more so after his passing) for promoting a none too subtle propaganda through his art and passing the images off as model normality. This WWI sheet music cover illustration is the least subtle example of this I can find.
Here's another one he did for the Boy Scouts of America
In fairness the paintings were commissions, but the images portrayed were entirely his own creation - no one told him to 'paint a little Dutch girl gratefully presenting a flower to a beleagered but victorious doughboy who has just slain one of the Kaiser's finest while a puppy meanwhile adoringly sniffs him '. Much of Rockwell's work propagandized far more subtly than this, though. Most often he presented an idealized nostalgiac image of a white middle class America that never quite existed.
One might be tempted to say that Norman Rockwell had an ultimately conservative soul, yet he often painted images with more liberal themes - after FDR made his famous 'four freedoms' speech, Rockwell created these paintings -
Later in life he took a keen interest in the civil rights movement and created these images -
I find it interesting how such a duality exists in one man's mind. So liberal yet so conservative. In an age where the word 'artist' evokes notions of an individual who is a strange whacked out, effete, impoverished, substance-abusing idealist, Norman Rockwell stands out as having an oddly Regular Guy kind of existence among his ilk.
I wonder if art historians centuries from now will lump Rockwell in the same group as Picasso - one of the greatest artists of the 20th century? Do you think he deserves that sort of honor?