My Friday Evening Post: Norman Rockwell

Gay Guy,

I recently went to the Norman Rockwell "Telling Stories" exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. It'll be there through the end of the year. It was insanely popular when it first opened, but the summer crowds seem to have died down a bit.

Go check it out. Illustration is often discounted in comparison to fine arts, but Rockwell was a master of technique and composition. This exhibit is culled from the private collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg who share a passion for his work. Both filmmakers came out of the "storyboard" tradition -- that the careful composition of shots can most effectively move the narrative. They both view Rockwell as a kindred spirit and master of snapshot storytelling.

Rockwell, sentimental? Hell yes. Patriotic? Of course. So what's the difference between stereotyping and celebrating recognizable role models? I don't know, but Rockwell seemed to get it right, and his filtered view of the mid-20th century experience will endure. Check out the collection to see a wide range of stories: love, coming-of-age, poverty, social justice, sacrifice, broad comedy, and other slices of life. [Readers, if you can't make it to DC, the on-line slideshow covers just about everything, only smaller.]

There's also plenty on the plight of the modern male. It's not one-sided. He plays us as heroes, fools, faithful husbands, and horn dogs, too. The sample above mixes a few of these themes. Here's Rockwell's take on "Tender Years: New Calendar"...
"My picture shows two people who, after living together for many years, have reached the stage of sympathy and compatibility for which all of us strive. They know their weaknesses and their strengths. They are comfortable and secure in their relationships with each other. And while Mother presumably takes Father's strong points for granted, she's still trying tolerantly to keep him on the straight and narrow when signs of frailty appear. Paintings like these are fun to do. While they are humorous, they are also human, and the subtle touch of forbearance evident in each of them is something all of us can learn."
Yeah. What he said. Plus, that cowgirl is pretty hot.

--Straight Guy

P.S. Anyone else have fond memories of the Saturday Evening Post or other Rockwell works?


Gay Guy said...

Watch out for those knitting needles, Grandpa.

kathryn said...

Well, I'm going to state the obvious- (at least to me.)- which is that G'ma is really peeved at the fact that she knitted those God-awful booties for G'pa (which, to his credit he is wearing and he's more interested in the pin-up chicky. Also, that cat under G'ma's skirt is eying those booties like they're meant to be his supper.
At least, it's obvious to me??
(sprinkles puff of glitter...exit right)

cheeseandgrits said...

50 years into their marriage, she's still thinking, "grow up!". I've been there. Not for that long, but been there.

Gay Guy said...

SG: Great post. Thanks for taking me back to my childhood.

I am pretty sure that my grandparents subscribed to the Saturday Evening Post and I remember it at my dentist's office (along with the miniature tooth and toothbrush key chain for good little patients). But, I think Rockwell had stopped illustrating for SEP by then.

But, I have good memories of jigsaw puzzles from Rockwell's magazine covers. We often had a jigsaw puzzle under way in a corner of our house. They could stay up for weeks until someone put in the zillionth piece.

I particularly remember a Rockwell puzzle of a truck stuck in a street alley. The anger, frustration and "I told you so" look on the drivers; the glee of the kids in the alley; laundry hanging like flags; everyone with an expert opinion of how to unstuck the truck. I just loved all the human dramas on the faces and all the back stories hinted at in the art.

So, I can see how Spielberg and Lucas are so fond of Rockwell. If only I could collect him, too!

I don't know if Rockwell painted a world that existed once or a world that he wanted to create.

Anonymous said...

Gay Guy,

I like your story about doing jigsaw puzzles growing up. Awww . . . sweet.

Gay Guy / Straight Guy Archive