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When interviewed for a magazine profile in 1960, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) emphatically defined himself as a genre painter. To make sure his interviewer got it right, he spelled it out for her, “That's spelled g-e-n-r-e.”1(p432) For more than 60 years, beginning with his first Saturday Evening Post cover, Boy With Baby Carriage, published on May 20, 1916, his anecdotal vignettes chronicled American life and values. In all, Rockwell completed 322 covers for the Post over nearly half a century. He represented America's proud patriotic strength and its democratic principles during 2 World Wars, and when the civil rights movement began, he documented the injustice of bigotry and the consequences of racial hatred. Throughout, as a keen observer of human nature, he depicted with a wry wit and a real sense of humor the hopes and struggles of growing up in America. Early in his career, as a matter of artistic technique, he was advised to invite the viewer into his illustrations. His success in engaging viewers through their active imaginations was widely appreciated. Adored by his viewing public and frequently scorned by avant-garde critics, Rockwell always hoped for more positive critical recognition. Despite his art training and familiarity with modern art (Picasso was one of his favorite artists), overall he did not receive such recognition. A re-evaluation of his work is under way,3 initiated by a traveling exhibition of selected art works from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), American. Cover image: The Art Critic, 1955. Oil on canvas, 39.5 × 36.26 in. ©1955 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing Co, Indianapolis, Ind. All rights reserved (http://www.curtispublishing.com).
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), American. Freedom from Fear, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45.75 × 35.5 in. ©1943 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing Co, Indianapolis, Ind. All rights reserved (http://www.curtispublishing.com).
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), American. Stained Glass, 1960. Oil on canvas, 46 × 43 in. ©1960 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing Co, Indianapolis, Ind. All rights reserved (http://www.curtispublishing.com).
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