Norman Rockwell: The Story of a Painting

Norman Rockwell- The Story of a Painting“Norman Rockwell believed that a painting was more than color and form, that it needed to carry a story — “The story is the first thing and the last thing,” he said — and so he painted very few landscapes. He was a meticulous painter of faces, and he toiled long days to get the expressions right, working from photographs of models, directing them as if for a movie, sketching draft after draft, expressing “his interior visions with a level of preciseness that made his painted world all the more compelling.” At a time when painters were making big bold swashes and dripping paint on canvas, trying to make art by sheer force, Rockwell was working up close, ever meticulous. His heroes were Pieter Bruegel, whose “Peasant Dance” (a reproduction) hung over Rockwell’s mantel, and the Dutch masters. He wanted to make ordinary American scenes as Rembrandt might have painted them.

“The artist we know as Norman Rockwell began to emerge clearly in 1938 when he and his second wife, Mary, having lived at the Hotel des Artistes on West 67th in New York and then New Rochelle and then a house in the Seventh Arrondissement in Paris, moved to Arlington, Vt., a town of 1,400 — “He wanted to experience small-town life,” Solomon writes, “to counter a feeling of staleness in his work, to work with new models. Models who were not models, just ordinary people devoid of pretense.”

“In the summer of 1942, eager to contribute to the war effort, Rockwell went to the Office of War Information, the propaganda agency in Washington, with sketches for posters illustrating the four freedoms laid out by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in a speech to Congress — freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from fear, freedom from want — and was turned away. The agency wasn’t interested in illustrators; they wanted real artists. So he took the idea to The Saturday Evening Post, which accepted it. It took him seven months to paint his “Four Freedoms” pictures — a Lincolnesque workingman standing up and speaking at a town meeting, a cluster of profiles of persons in prayer, a mother and father watching over two sleeping children, a family gathered around the Thanksgiving table — which appeared in The Post and drew sacks of fan mail and was used by the Treasury to sell war bonds. The O.W.I., which had turned him down the year before, put out two and a half million “Four Freedoms” posters. “He now became enshrined as America’s leading Painter-Patriot,” Solomon writes. “In the eyes of millions of Americans, his scenes . . . amounted to an inspired defense of national values, a pictorial rebuke to fascists the world over.” -NY Times

MORE INFORMATION:

BOOK: Best of Norman Rockwell
by Tom Rockwell
Norman Rockwell’s son, Tom, has put together the absolute finest collection of his father’s bounteous body of work, illustrations that bespeak the golden glow of pre- and post-WWII Americana. Rockwell senior, who said he depicted life “as I would like it to be,” chronicled iconic visions of American life: the Thanksgiving turkey, soda fountains, ice skating on the pond, and small-town boys playing baseball-not to mention the beginning of the civil rights movement. Now, the best-selling collection of Rockwell’s most beloved illustrations, organized by decade, is available in a refreshed edition. With more than 150 images-oil paintings, watercolors, and rare black-and-white sketches--this is an uncommonly faithful Rockwell treasury.(...more)
BOOK: Norman Rockwell- Behind the Camera
by Ron Schick
Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera is the first book to explore the meticulously composed and richly detailed photographs that Norman Rockwell used to create his famous artworks. Working alongside skilled photographers, Rockwell acted as director, carefully orchestrating models, selecting props, and choosing locations for the photographs--works of art in their own right--that served as the basis of his iconic images. Readers will be surprised to find that many of his most memorable characters-the girl at the mirror, the young couple on prom night, the family on vacation-were friends and neighbors who served as his amateur models. In this groundbreaking book, author and historian Ron Schick delves into the archive of nearly 20,000 photographs housed at the Norman Rockwell Museum. (...more)
READ & WATCH: American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell

This title is a must-have for all lovers of America's favorite storyteller. "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell" explores Norman Rockwell's unparalleled role as an American icon-maker and storyteller. The book, a catalogue to a special exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum, traces the evolution of Rockwell's art and iconography throughout his career - from carefully choreographed reflections on childhood innocence in such paintings as "No Swimming" (1921) to powerful, consciousness-raising images like "The Problem We All Live With" (1964), which documented the traumatic realities of desegregation in the South. "American Chronicles" demonstrates how Rockwell's images provided Americans with a vocabulary for describing and celebrating themselves, their country, and their experiences in the twentieth century.

'Written in an engaging style and from an insider's point of view, the book begins with Rockwell's early life, student years, and career in Manhattan, Mamaroneck, and New Rochelle, New York. In subsequent chapters, the author explores Rockwell's life and artworks when he lived in Arlington, Vermont, and later in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he enjoyed the life of a famous working artist for his last 25years. Of special interest to Rockwell aficionados will be the color reproductions of Rockwell's art, color-corrected to the Museum's original paintings. Readers will delight in an array of intriguing archival portraits of Rockwell throughout his life. Many of these images are being published for the first time, for they existed until now only as fragile negatives on acetate film in the Museum's archive. The creation of his 1965 painting "Murder in Mississippi" is told in step-by-step detail, illuminating the artist's working process. Research materials, handwritten notes, reference photographs, preliminary studies, the final painting, the published image in the magazine tear sheet, and portraits of the artist in the midst of creation all make for a captivating and in-depth documentation of Rockwell's working process and methods. The book concludes with 28 pages of rarely or never-before-seen black-and-white photographs of Rockwell's studios from the Museum's comprehensive photographic collection. Photographs by Rockwell's assistants Gene Pelham, Louie Lamone, and Bill Scovill capture the artist and his models at work during the height of his career."...(more)...