Friday, February 18, 2011

Norman Rockwell / Tacoma Art Museum

The Connoisseur by Norman Rockwell (image via)

My excitement-meter didn't go very high initially when I first heard that Tacoma Art Museum's next exhibition was the art of Norman Rockwell. Like a lot of folks my age, I associate Rockwell with schmaltzy paintings of lanky teens playing basketball or women being dutiful wives preparing Sunday dinners for their families. He's always seemed a bit too cliche and sentimental, even for me.

Becky Sharp by Norman Rockwell (image via)

Then I realized I hadn't ever given him a chance so I cracked open an old Reader's Digest book (Norman Rockwell's America) I had laying around around. Yes, he's done a ton of paintings of young love, quality family time, and men going off to war. It's probably safe to say that the majority of my impression of life in the 50s comes from Norman Rockwell paintings and Happy Days.

Strictly a Sharpshooter, 1941 by Norman Rockwell (image via)

But he also did a lot of edgier/non-sentimental work. In addition to his idyllic portrayals of life, he also documented the struggles of the times such as racial integration in The Problem We All Live With. He did amazing portraits and was highly prolific (322 Saturday Evening Post covers).

The Horseshoe Forging Contest, 1940 by Norman Rockwell

I'm curious to see how history will remember Rockwell. No matter what, many hold the view that "Rockwell was, and still is spokesman for the American Dream."
In 1999, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews: “Rockwell is terrific. It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.” via
I'm looking forward to cruising down to TAM to check out American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell. There will be over 350+ works. It opens up Saturday, February 26th.


Gary said...


Yeah!, I've had the same problems in my life with Rockwell. I mean, it's really tough because of the way we contemporary art people read paintings. But I went to a SAM exhibit of Rockwell's a few decades back and was blown away. Alright, the subject matter of his work just makes you want to cringe. But have you seen his work in person? I'm thinking, if you draw or paint you need to look at this guys technical ability. His use of media and light is just nuts. It's remarkable. I'm thinking there is a wonderful culture war thing working here about painting. His themes of Boyscouts and Thanksgiving turkeys suck but look at the man's use of media. He's really good. Maybe our prejudice is showing when we dump on him. You must go when you can and see the real thing. Go see his work in person, Joey, then tell me what you think. The guys skill as a painter is excelent and thus raises so many quesions from our point of view. His situation kind of reminds me of Winslow Homer. Check his real stuff out face to face and tell me you don't feel amazed. GFinholt

Joey Veltkamp said...

You said it great - I can do without his themes but I have a feeling I'm going to be amazed at his technical abilities. He's quite a visual storyteller, I just typically didn't like the stories, but I'm expecting to be pleasantly surprised at TAM! :)