When I was a kid, I loved Norman Rockwell. The Four Freedoms – the posters he did during WWII – really moved me. I used to look forward to every issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
Then I got older, went to art school, and of course I realized he was commercial, an ‘illustrator.’ All the things that happen to you, they give you opinions, you know.
But there is an article in The Smithsonian this month that showed me a different Norman Rockwell.
I looked at a couple of pictures that went with the article and I realized they were astonishing. So true.
So suddenly, there was a reversal of all my prejudices. I find that happening to me more and more – getting rid of prejudice – and it makes me feel lighter, much lighter. I’m getting rid of stuff I didn’t even know I was harboring.
It’s like throwing things out when you clean your house. It makes more room in your brain, in your life.
Part of the problem with Rockwell is that he was so humble. He always said he was ‘just an illustrator.’ He made no claims to being a ‘real’ artist.
Interestingly, as the art world came around to an appreciation of his work, Andy Warhol was one of the first to note Rockwell’s contribution. He called him a precursor of hyperrealism.Way ahead of his time.
(Rockwell is a recipient of all this nice revisionism, of course, because he passes the first test of the art world – he’s a man. This I have also come to understand.)
Technically, of course, Rockwell is peerless. But if you look carefully at his work, there is more going on than first appears.
I like The Connoiseur, which not only sums up centuries of art, but also generations of art appreciation. You don’t need to see that man’s face – you can see everything about him in his hat.
Oh, that hat!