Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Happy Birthday to an Artist ...

Norman Percevel Rockwell, a 20th-century American artist whose works were embraced as icons of American life and ideals, was born on this day in 1894.

It's true, Rockwell's work was dismissed by a number of critics and artists of his day. One large body of his work - illustrations for magazine covers that presented idealistic or sentimental portrayals of American life — were targets-of-choise, labeled as bourgeois kitsch, disconnected from reality, and even "Rockwellesque." Some of his critics sneeringly called him an "illustrator" instead of an artist ... which was fine, really, because that's what Rockwell called himself.

But in the larger, more widespread and popular circles, Rockwell was appreciated to the point of reverence. His many, many images of Boy Scouting were held in high regard by my mom, a woman who has served nearly half-a-century as a Scouter. His images have been recreated in every medium there is, and originals of his works are much-sought-after (there's one in Midland's Museum of the Southwest, I think). And over the course of his career, Rockwell was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon.

Me? I like his works.

Good online sources about Rockwell include his
Wikipedia write-up, his official website and the museum he established in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.


Anonymous said...

For those who think all Rockwell did was fluff, I suggest they find the painting he called "The Machine Gunner". Rockwell did the work to be used as a poster in WWII encouraging factory production on the home front. This is a powerful picture of a GI, obviously in dire straits, with torn and dirty uniform behind his machine gun (a watercooled Browning .30 caliber) as he fires the last few rounds of ammunition he has. It is a very impressive, very gritty vignette of what the American soldier was doing at the time. If you haven't seen it, look it up...you can find it in various places on the web. Just because Rockwell chose to do mostly happy, even sentimental slices of American life didn't mean he couldn't lay stark reality on canvas with the best of them.
And yes, Rockwell is one of my favorites along with another under-appreciated (IMHO) American illustrator, N.C. Wyeth.

Jeff said...

Darrell, you are absolutely right on all counts ... including Andrew Wyeth - a wonderful artist who was still working, still creating up till the time of his recent passing.

As for your recommendation of "The Machine Gunner," I'd like to add a couple of recommendations of my own - "The Problem We All Live With" and "Southern Justice." Makes me think that maybe it wasn't Rockwell that needed a reality check, but some of his critics.

Thanks for stopping in, Darrell.