Feelings in Art

By Carroll, Colleen | Arts & Activities, June 2015 | Go to article overview

Feelings in Art


Carroll, Colleen, Arts & Activities


ABOUT THE ARTIST

This month's featured artist, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), was born in the big city, but spent a lifetime creating scenes of small-town America. Born in New York City, Rockwell showed artistic talent at an early age. Anxious to become an artist, he dropped out of high school at 14, opting to focus on art at The National Academy of Design.

After two years, he switched to the Art Students League, the New York art school whose alumni reads like a who's who of American art. Rockwell had some paying jobs while still a student, but his big break came when he received his first book illustration commission, at age 18. From that point until the end of his life, Rockwell worked steadily as an illustrator and painter.

After school, Rockwell went to work for Boys' Life, the magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. Three years later he was named art director. In 1920 Rockwell made his first illustration for the Saturday Evening Post, a magazine Rockwell described as "the greatest show window in America." Throughout his career he completed 323 covers for the Saturday Evening Post. (This month's Art Print, No Swimming, was his 39th cover). "His Post covers captured the emotions of the times, not only that which was, but also what people would have liked life to be." (americanillustration.org)

Although Rockwell's work was beloved by the American public, it was savaged by art critics. His idealized, highly detailed, and realistic style was the complete opposite of what was considered modernist. According to Rockwell biographer, Deborah Solomon, "Norman Rockwell was demonized by a generation of critics who not only saw him as an enemy of modern art, but of all art." (www.nytimes.com)

Yet, despite the criticism, people the world over were (and are) drawn to Rockwell's themes of family, community, love, hope, dreams, heartbreak, and seeing the humor in life. Says Laurie Norton Moffatt, director of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, "The ideals in his work are timeless, and they resonate deeply. …

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