If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Norman Rockwell: Enlightened Illustrator of Americana

Norman Rockwell is one is the most known and beloved of American illustrators. I thought I should add him to my blog since I just added J.C. Leyendecker, an American illustrator Rockwell admired and emulated. Unlike Leyendecker, I have known about Rockwell for much longer, having appreciated his art in high school and college. I bought a huge book of Rockwell when I was 21 in the Army. Although I didn't care much for his almost kitschy, Boy Scout, idealized images of Americana, I was fascinated by his photorealistic painting techniques.

My appreciation for his artwork increased with his images for Look magazine of the Southern Freedom movement in the 60s, which broke him away from his idealized white, middle class imagery of America. Most people would not recognize the dark sepia study for the painting "Murder in Mississippi" as a Rockwell. The painting reveals a side of America that Rockwell kept well hid in his earlier paintings, even though he was more of a political liberal. His third wife Molly Punderson,a strident liberal, encouraged him to move in new directions. We recognize the Rockwell style in his painting The Problem We All Live With, but the subject, the young girl Ruby Bridges integrating a New Orleans school in 1960, was not typical Rockwell scenery. These paintings represent to me a kind of artistic conversion from an idealized white America.

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