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Thread: Norman Rockwell

  1. #1
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Norman Rockwell

    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 -


    or


    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?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    VERY interesting post.

    Please understand that my comments are not in any way aimed at you personally; they are merely a reflection. I think the source of your puzzlement stems from a frame of reference that would have been considered incomprehensible, if not by the time Rockwell died, then certainly at the time he was a youth/started working.

    You are juxtaposing the image of a 'liberator' US doughboy with that of a determined little black girl taking part in desegregation. A happy, united, normal family at Christmas juxtaposed to 'freedom from want'. Those images and their obviously very loaded (even ideological) content are contradictory to a Noam Chomsky and perhaps, a Karl Rove, but they would seem part of a single clear ideal to a 'Lincoln Republican' and indeed to a 'Truman Democrat'.

    As a final point, I would remind readers that the sort of critique that 'dissed' Rockwell in the 1950s-1970s is now considered by avant-garde art critics as risibly dated as Rockwell himself was considered by his detractors in his late years. I can't think of a single major art citric other than a few irreducible hyper-modernist reactionaries, now sliding ungracefully into senescence, who does not consider Norman Rockwell a greet artist (albeit "of his time").
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  3. #3
    Cyburbian zman's avatar
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    Despite Campy, massive doses of unbrideled Americana, I have enjoyed many of Rockwell's works.
    Seems that many paintings have not only capture American historical significance, but also awaken a viewer's "geriatric soul," meaning causing one; despite age, locale or background, to reminice about "the way things were..."

    Ahhh, simpler times.

    Also reminds me of when my grandfather still had his dental practice in Memphis. Rockwell was featured on many of the giveaway calendars he would send us.
    You get all squeezed up inside/Like the days were carved in stone/You get all wired up inside/And it's bad to be alone

    You can go out, you can take a ride/And when you get out on your own/You get all smoothed out inside/And it's good to be alone
    -Peart

  4. #4
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Luca
    I would remind readers that the sort of critique that 'dissed' Rockwell in the 1950s-1970s is now considered by avant-garde art critics as risibly dated as Rockwell himself was considered by his detractors in his late years. I can't think of a single major art citric other than a few irreducible hyper-modernist reactionaries, now sliding ungracefully into senescence, who does not consider Norman Rockwell a greet artist (albeit "of his time").
    Oh, you're hardly the first to accuse me of expressing critical views that are somewhat, ahem, dated. http://www.cyburbia.org/forums/showp...0&postcount=10

    Why would most modern art critics regard Rockwell as one of the greatest artists of the century? He worked entirely within realist parameters - a style well mastered and played out some two or three centuries earlier. He frequently portrayed idealized images - again, a centuries old practice. How did he advance artistic achievement using such dated tools? Could it be said that Rockwell was to painting as Samuel Barber was to classical music?

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    Cyburbian michaelskis's avatar
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    I think that the influence of Norman Rockwell’s paints were purposefully designed to provoke discussion about a particular topic, while still accurately reflecting a snapshot of a particular point in time. I however don’t think that his works accomplished what he had intended. People just liked some, but not others but what I don’t think that even Rockwell and intended was the subsections influence and suggestions that resonate with the audience.

    While he has done a lot, he did not create a defined style and do anything dramatically different than other artists, so I don’t think that he will be in the same league as Picasso. He was one of several who painted Social Folk Art.
    "A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. Time makes more converts than reason." - Thomas Paine Common Sense.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian otterpop's avatar
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    The Norman Rockwell illustration that sticks with me is the one where there is a boy with his belongings tied up in a bundle on the end of a stick sitting in a diner and maybe clutching his teddy bear. Obviously he is running away from home. Sitting next to him is the local cop gently talking with him.
    "I am very good at reading women, but I get into trouble for using the Braille method."

    ~ Otterpop ~

  7. #7
    Cyburbian sisterceleste's avatar
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    My favorite is the one called the Rookie. Where the new guy shows up in the baseball locker room. Very fourties too. Ted Williams is one of the faces.
    You darn tootin', I like fig newtons!

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    Member Wulf9's avatar
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    It's hard to conclude that Rockwell was "conservative." He was an observer of his times. His images reflect the American family of the time -- 2 parents (one male one female), 2-4 children (all from the same parents), mother at home, father goes to work, family goes to church, meals are served at home, all holidays are celebrated. Families on the political left and right lived that lifestyle. Recently, the right has politicized and adopted the 1940's, 50's family structure as a political statment. It was not a political statement when Rockwell did his folksy, sentimental pictures.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian Emeritus Bear Up North's avatar
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    When this Bear was growing up in the 1950's, I was a Boy Scout. We used to receive a magazine, "Boy's Life". It always had Norman Rockwell illustrations on the cover.
    _____

    I really like the image on the original post that shows the kids staring at each other (next to the moving van). Notice the baseball mitts.....you just know it will be a very short time period before they are all playing together.

    Bear
    Occupy Cyburbia!

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Plus JNA's avatar
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    Boy's Life in the late 60's -- early 70's also had Rockwell covers.
    Oddball
    Why don't you knock it off with them negative waves?
    Why don't you dig how beautiful it is out here?
    Why don't you say something righteous and hopeful for a change?
    From Kelly's Heroes (1970)


    Are you sure you're not hurt ?
    No. Just some parts wake up faster than others.
    Broke parts take a little longer, though.
    From Electric Horseman (1979)

  11. #11
    Cyburbian Luca's avatar
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    Maister wrote: “Why would most modern art critics regard Rockwell as one of the greatest artists of the century? He worked entirely within realist parameters - a style well mastered and played out some two or three centuries earlier. He frequently portrayed idealized images - again, a centuries old practice.”

    michaelskis wrote:: “[Rockwell] did not create a defined style and do anything dramatically different than other artists, so I don’t think that he will be in the same league as Picasso. He was one of several who painted Social Folk Art.


    Let me explain. The ideal of great artist as stylistic or aesthetic experimenter is somewhat fallacious. Piero dell Francesca’s paintings followed ‘folk’ religious themes and his technical innovations are evolutionary (some of Rockwell’s painting is tactually quite technically virtuous) but he’s still considered a great early-renaissance artist.

    The greatness of an artist is not in the novelty (otherwise EVERY, I mean EVERY artist after the first abstract painting would have to be a fraud, including Picasso, who was preceded to cubism a many artists, as would EVERY installation artist after Duchamp – assuming Duchamp was first) but in the ability to project onto an audience a sensation, a message that comes from the artists’ personal aesthetic and human sensibility but transmits to a broader audience. Rockwell was one ‘illustrator’ among many, but how many more ‘illustrators’ can the average person name? A couple? Half a dozen? Out of thousands? They are great popular artists. As was Caravaggio.
    Life and death of great pattern languages

  12. #12
    Chairman of the bored Maister's avatar
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    Looking at Google homepage reminded me to wish everyone a Happy 116th Norman Rockwell's birthday.

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