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November 28, 2004 - Norman Rockwell, an American Original













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World’s Laziest Journalist

November 28, 2004

By Bob Patterson

 

Older Americans, when they think of Thanksgiving Day, usually get an image of one of Norman Rockwell’s paintings that showed a family having their meal on that particular holiday.  It was called Freedom from Want and was part of four that he painted to illustrate the Four Freedoms in WWII. 

 

Those four freedoms were: freedom of religion, of speech, from want, and from fear.

 

As a kid, this columnist became addicted to seeing the new Saturday Evening Post issue with a cover featuring a painting done by Norman Rockwell.  Eventually there was the inevitable subscription that lapsed a few years later when adolescent priorities changed.  The Saturday Evening Post is still being published as a monthly magazine.  The December issue features a painting showing alter boys at Christmas. 

 

Somehow, as a kid in the midst of baseball games announced by Mel Allen and occasional sips of beer, from the Standard brewery in Scranton, Pennsylvania, I was able to intuitively know that the charges that Rockwell was “only an illustrator” were bogus because part of the man’s genius lay in his “artist’s eye,” which was behind the technical brilliance of the painting which spawned the “photo realism” school. 

 

[If you can’t become an eminent art critic, becoming a columnist on the Interweb is an acceptable alternative choice . . . I guess.]

 

One painter in that era would take photographic color slides of the subject he wanted to paint, and then project the image on the canvas and apply the paint to the projected image. 

 

Back then there was a photographer who went to considerable lengths to recreate Rockwell’s paintings and then take a photograph of his homage to the painter.

 

Photographer Richard Avedon was well known for his strobe light portraits that did not produce shadows on the background.  The unique effect reminded one particular fan of the way figures in many Rockwell paintings were outlined against a white background. 

 

Rockwell’s paintings didn’t just show a greeting card scene that got a big “Awwwe!”  His paintings told a short story in one frame. 

 

Rockwell’s art (he was more than “just an illustrator”) provided a comfortable living.  The other end of the spectrum would be a man who spent a lifetime producing remarkable work and didn’t make one penny from it while he was alive.  Try Googling for the remarkable story of Henry Darger.

 

Didn’t Rockwell weather the criticism of his work by reaping subsidiary merchandising royalties for various things like post cards and coffee mugs?  Or did most of them develop after Rockwell passed away?

 

Proof that Rockwell’s art is timeless can be provided for those disappointed in the 2004 election results by looking at the scene of utter dejection from an unsuccessful campaign headquarters that told a similar story in the past.

 

One of the few quotes from Norman Rockwell that we could find (on the website for his museum in Stockbridge Massachusetts), is this one: "Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative."

 

Now, if the disk jockey will play Sue Thompson’s hit from 1962, Norman (words and music by John D. Loudermilk), we’ll bop on out of here for this week.  We hope to return again next week with a column of brilliant insights and perceptive comments, and if we cannot find someone who can write such a column, we’ll have to fake it.  Until then, have a week full of sloppy sentimental memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2004 – Robert Patterson  































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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