Thursday, February 3, 2011

Happy Birthday, Norman Rockwell! (1894 - 1978)

Special day today, the birth day of one of America's favorite artists, Norman Rockwell. I love his paintings, always have. For me, he's never gone in or out of fashion, he's just always existed in his own unique niche. A great craftsman, technician, painter of the American Dream, he was also, first and foremost, a born artist and interpreter. He mirrored (and often idealized) our own ideas of ourselves. But no matter what he did, he added a calming sense of quiet elegance to the mix - he could not help it. I hope you enjoyed looking at some of my favorite Rockwell paintings on this special day.


  1. Thankyou for my Rockwell 'fix' Yvette! I've been away from the homestead for a few days and the picture on my NR calendar will have changed by the time I get back! :-)

  2. I love Rockwell! Glad my pix cheered you up. I looked for some that weren't the usual sort. :)

  3. We are kindred souls Yvette! I've always loved Norman Rockwell. I've been meaning to go to the current special Brooklyn Museum exhibit Of Norman Rockwell called "Behind the Camera" which shows the photographs he used as models for his paintings. It runs till April 10th!

  4. Oh for sure, Pat. I can tell you love NYC as much as I do. Rockwell has been a pet of mine since forever. Don't care what anyone says. But he seems to be enjoying a sort of renaissance within these past few years - don't you think?

    About time, I say.

  5. I was fortunate enough a few years ago to go to his museum in Western Mass. and to see his paintings in person. Please note the grandmother in the painting of the family heading off and returning from vacation. Who says Norman didn't have a sense of humor? Thanks for this marvelous post.

  6. As the one who mentioned that Grant Wood had a satiric side to him, I should mention that Rockwell at times felt trapped by what he as the Saturday Evening Post trap of expectations. Part of him longed to be an abstract expressionist.

    This is a bit of a digression, Yvette, but I'm teaching an American film class at the moment and am struck by how certain foreign-born American directors made their mark by catering to a Norman Rockwell exterior and then showing the public the dark underside. I have in mind people like Alfred Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, and Douglas Sirk (whose postcard look is so overdone that you realize there's an element of parody).

    All of which is to say that, while we long for a Rockwell small town innocence (I know I do), we sometimes push under the dark side of small town life.

  7. Barbara: You're most welcome. I love nothing better than posting and talking and looking at art. The grandma in the pix is funny because she remains unchanged in both the coming and the going. Ha!

    I would love to visit his museum someday.

  8. Robin: There's so much to talk about in your comment on the film aspects of the American Dream. I wish you'd do a post on it - or maybe I will. Personally, I think Rockwell would not have been a very good abstract expressionist - don't sense that he had the guts or the fiery spirit necessary. I think he was the sort who WISHED to do something but maybe, secretly, was happy enough to do what he did do very, VERY well. (Not to mention that he made a lucrative living at it.) Thoughts off the top of my head, by the way.

    Well, the film makers you mention were naturally inclined to look underneath the flower pot - weren't they? Maybe being foreign born gives you a clearer vision? I don't know.
    I've always seen Hitchcock as a grim sort of little fellow who, primarily, because of his roly-bowly appearance, liked to yank a chain and cause something to happen to good-looking people. Does that make sense? I can't imagine what else he could have done in life and done so well - maybe write novels? I don't know. I loved many of his movies and am thankful he did what did when he did it.

    Robin, did you see the Douglas Sirk parody, FAR FROM HEAVEN starring Julianna Moore, Dennis Quade and Dennis Haysbert? If not, I think you might like it. It has the look and feel and even the music of the original 1950's Sirk films, but with a kind of distancing modern view. Not a great film, but still worth seeing.

    Unlike you though, I never saw a hint of parody beneath Sirk's films' - those varnished exteriors - jeez, but I enjoyed them for what they were. In my view, many of these films from the 50's looked to have taken place on another planet. You had to take them with a pinch of salt. Though, at the time, I don't know if I did or not. :)

    Frank Capra (American born?) who seemed to have actually believed in the America of Rockwell's paintings managed to put the thing across. Most of the time he made you believe in it too. Though, even in IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, there's ugliness beneath the happy face. Did he make MEET JOHN DOE? Jeez, that film really debunks the nature of the dream. I can't watch that film anymore.

    Good chatting with you, Robin.

  9. My wife and I have been members for about ten years at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA. We visit every time we visit the Lenox/Stockbridge area of the Berkshires. Two of our favorites are reproduced and hang on our walls: The Gossips, which is hilarious, and the one showing a tomboy with a black eye and a huge grin on her face sitting outside the principal's office - that one reminds us of our own younger daughter. Rockwell captured a wonderful spirit in his paintings. I'm glad to see his art coming back into popular fashion again.

  10. I love those two as well, Les. They're in my files. (I keep all sorts of paintings and photos in my files purely for inspiration.)The gossip one is so fun. The girl with the black eye reminds me of my own daughter when she was young. She was afraid of nothing. :)

  11. I agree that couldn't have been an abstract expressionist, Yvette. I vaguely remember him painting a stuffy businessman sort standing in an art museum confused by such a painting. So Rockwell got to at least paint one in a painting. But no, he knew what he was good at and stuck with it.

    I'm not at all surprised that you love the visuals of Douglas Sirk (as do I). Do you think, however, that, say, the last scene in All that Heaven allows is so over the top beautiful as to almost be laughing at itself--there's Jane Wyman nursing Rock Hudson back to health as a Currier and Ives snow scene presents itself outside their picturesque old mill house--and, to top it all off, a deer enters the picture! Almost as though Sirk is saying, "You Americans want a happy ending? Okay, take this." Kind of like Brecht (following John Gay) calling a reprieve for Mac the Knife at the end of Three Penny Opera and then following it up with a pension for life. Of course, I desperately want this happy ending so I don't protest too much--this way, I can laugh at myself for wanting it but be satisfied at the same time.

  12. Robin, the painting you mention shows a business man type standing in front of a Jackson Pollock kind of painting. The 'Pollock' is done quite well by Rockwell. He must have had fun working on this.

    I love a happy ending, too. With a Douglas Sirk film, the heroine was always put through the wringer, so a happy ending was the payoff.

    How Wyman suffers in that movie. Always at the hand of well-meaning family and friends.

    The deer in the end is a bit much, I agree. But what the heck, maybe Sirk wants to distract us from the studio set? Or, he may, as you say have wanted to pour it on. :)
    And wasn't that the greatest mill house??

  13. Yes, great house. All I could think of when I saw it was what it would bring in today's housing market. (Well, in the housing market four years ago.)

  14. Oh, a couple of million. At least. Ha!


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