June 9, 2016

"My first reaction was, Norman Rockwell’s from New York City?"

"You really understand Rockwell’s work in a whole new way when you realize he grew up on the West Side. He formed a view of the world that can be traced right back to 103rd Street. You’ve got to imagine he was struck by the great disparities of wealth in New York City even then, and that awareness stuck with him through his career. You can see it in subtle but important ways in so much of his work."

Said Mark Levine, chairman of the New York City Council’s Parks Committee, who was part of the process of getting West 103rd between Broadway and Amsterdam Avenue renamed Norman Rockwell Place. (Some high school students got it started, and they were pretty impressed by the artwork: "The first time I went to the museum, I was like, this can’t be a painting.")

We tend to think of the same few Normal Rockwell paintings, and they're not the ones that show the city, like this one, called "Homecoming" (1945):

19 comments:

Robert Cook said...

Humphrey Bogart was born on 103rd Street, between Broadway and West End Avenue, and it is called Humphrey Bogart Place.

Robert Cook said...

I'm surprised at those who assume Rockwell must have been a hick from the stix or something. He was a commercial illustrator and he painted what appealed to the mass audience. He did it with uncommon facility and grace, and much of his work transcends its commercial origins and milieu.

Leslie Graves said...

I was at the Crystal Bridges art museum near Bentonville, Arkansas a few years ago when they were doing a special Norman Rockwell display. Although this is a famous painting for some reason I hadn't really associated it with him until I saw it there.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Problem_We_All_Live_With

tim in vermont said...

Norman Rockwell paintings are worth the trip to see them in person. We have all seen them reproduced poorly so many times, well, maybe not poorly, but inadequately.

One thing is very true though, the divide between rich and poor is much much greater in "blue America" than it is in "red America." We stayed at the Sherry Netherlands one time and a pretty lady disappeared into a private club through a door that was built into the wall and was invisible until it was opened.

In most of red America, the rich and poor know each other.

Big Mike said...

My own welcome home during the Vietnam era was a bit more restrained.

William said...

It's good to see that the current residents of 103 St. can connect with his paintings. Perhaps he painted a sentimental version of America, but they are sentiments worth having. It was said that Dickens was a pro humanist propagandist. There's something of that in a Rockwell painting, but perhaps such art encourages us to be a little better. The harsh caricatures of George Grosz never encouraged Germans to behave better.

paminwi said...

A small museum in Appleton, WI had a great show last summer of original paintings alongside with some of his original drawings and the progression he went through for the covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Very cool.

Leslie Graves said...

@Big Mike: Here are a few more Rockwell soldiers:

http://www.mardecortesbaja.com/2012/10/12/a-norman-rockwell-for-today-20/

http://www.amazon.com/Norman-Rockwell-Autographed-Soldier-Thanksgiving/dp/B00F6ZSP06

I like this one the best:

http://daleblanshan.com/2012/11/norman-rockwell-and-patriotism/

mockturtle said...

I've always thought Rockwell captured the American culture better than anyone else. Glad to see his work is still appreciated.

richardsson said...

When libraries used to store bound volumes of old magazines, one of the joys was spending a little time going through old Saturday Evening Posts. I enjoyed looking at old Hudson and DeSoto Ads, and cover art by Norman Rockwell.

St. George said...

He and his alcoholic wife moved up to Vermont (or was it New Hampshire?) so they could be close to her psychiatrist who had just opened a clinic in that small town. He ended up in therapy, too. Apparently, he had a lot of angst because his family life was nowhere nearly as cheerful and heartwarming as what he depicted.

HoodlumDoodlum said...

Tim - I agree; there was a Rockwell exhibit at the High Museum seralnyars ago and I was impressed.

ELC said...

He spent much summer time in the country when he was growing up, though.

He moved from New Rochelle NY to Arlington VT where they lived in the 1940s, and then to Stockbridge MA in the 1950s for his wife's health.

May 20th was the 100th anniversary of his first Saturday Evening Post cover. I wrote an inadequate tribute.

http://www.catholiclane.com/a-rockwell-centenary/

EDH said...

That picture reminds me of the Farkle Family from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In.

damikesc said...

I wasn't that stunned. At a time, while still obnoxious, New Yorkers were ABLE to see that a world outside of their city existed.

That, sadly, is not the case.

In most of red America, the rich and poor know each other.

Yeah, really Progressive wealthy people love the poor...in theory. They don't want to ever see them, though. Makes it easier to support terrible policies when you never have to see the outcomes.

Michael McClain said...

I love the sentiment displayed in "The Homecoming." So much to see in that painting -- the welcome of the various members of the family and the presumed girl friend hiding around the corner of the building.

The work certainly captures the mood of the times.

mtrobertslaw said...

How come we don't see any drive-by shootings depicted in "Homecoming"?

R. Chatt said...

"You’ve got to imagine he was struck by the great disparities of wealth in New York City even then, and that awareness stuck with him through his career. You can see it in subtle but important ways in so much of his work." Really? I don't see that at all. What has always struck me about Rockwell's work is the sense of common humanity. I don't ever see any sense of class consciousness or conflict. Apparently his third wife was an ardent liberal and the influence to address more social issues, but that was not until later in his career.

The other odd thing about this story is that the Rockwell Museum is about a 3 hour trip from 103rd Street in Manhattan whereas the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one of the great art museums of the world, is a 15 minute trip. And yet the one student seemed to never have seen a real painting or been in an art museum before.

Robert Cook said...

"The harsh caricatures of George Grosz never encouraged Germans to behave better."

They weren't expected or intended to. Political caricatures and cartoons rarely effect political or social changes. (Perhaps Thomas Nast is one of the few whose work aroused sufficient public reaction as to result in political reforms.) Grosz's pictures were his well-justified cries of fury at the barbarism he saw in the society around him in his home country, and expressed the outrage and pain of many of his fellow Germans.

Grosz' work is superb.