28 September 1979

My Life in Pictures Part Eleven: Norman Rockwell


I really can't remember the first time I saw a Norman Rockwell illustration. It seems that I've always been familiar with his work, yet have never thought of him as an 'influence'. His level of mastery always seemed to me, and still remains, miles above anything I ever hope to achieve.

I remember first seeing a hardbound oversized collection of his paintings at a friend's house when I was about 13 years old. His treatments of skin and texture, his skills at capturing expression and character through posture and layout, made a big impression on me, yet there was something about his work which always struck me as so unreachable that I never quite embraced it like I did the more humble cartoons and caricatures that I would frequently emulate.

By the time I reached college, Norman Rockwell's reputation among my teachers and fellow students was at a pretty low ebb. He was frequently labelled as 'kitch' or 'cornball', and his 'view of the America that never was' frequently overshadowed his considerable skills as an artist. I've only recently begun rediscovering his work, and getting struck dumb with feelings of 'I'm not worthy' all over again.

ADDENDUM UPDATE: While on a trip to Nashville in December of 2013, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon an exhibition of Norman Rockwell originals at the Art Museum there, and I've fallen in love with Norman Rockwell's work all over again. I think this was the first time I've seen an artist's 'originals' that didn't disappoint from the 'reproduction' that I've been more familiar with. In fact, it was most eye opening to me to discover how much MORE amazing his work was in person as opposed to the reproductions both on the magazine covers, and in glossy oversized art books. There was also a wide variety of style and technique on display, from thickly layered paints to thin washes with pencil sketch marks showing through (sometimes both on the same piece of work), which I'm not sure is a necessity of the 'deadline and budget' for a particular piece, or an artistic choice. Anyways, I was glad of the chance to see one of my hero's work up close (been getting this chance a lot over the past five years, seeing exhibitions of Daniel Clowes and Pat Oliphant's work -- now I just need to get out and see some NC Wyeth originals)