Norman Rockwell, Double take, 1941  

Norman Rockwell

What’s not to like about Norman Rockwell?

Norman Rockwell makes us laugh and cry! He plays on all that is universal in the human experience yet he creates a world that does not exist. His New England world anticipated “Lake Wobegone”.

The man has impeccable design skills. An illustrator’s world is often married to the written word. He seamlessly integrates type into his image, be it a Washington Post banner head or an advertisement for war bonds. He even changes his signature to make sense with the style and period of his paintings!

The man can paint, the paint is lush and varied. Rockwell’s paintings were made for reproduction but the reproductions do not do them justice. Try to see them in the flesh! Rockwell’s backgrounds are often painted with a loose brush strokes, just enough detail to set the ambiance of the scene. In contrast his figures are often tightly rendered; we can recognize leather from cotton, flesh from fire.

The man has wonderful drawing skills; he renders light like nobody’s business, you can see the difference between milk and cream. He knows anatomy so well, when he invents his human form we believe it to be real.

Rockwell believed in using every tool that was available to him. Photography allowed him to pose his models in the most uncomfortable positions, if only for a second. If he felt unable to render a particular font, he employed a sign maker to create a type skeleton for him to embellish.

Although Rockwell was meticulous, in control of every detail, he had a “town hall” approach to art making, He used his neighbors as models, and engaged their opinions to help solve the riddle of his work. He also bought, begged, bartered and almost stole the worn cloths off of their backs, to use as props in the next painting. Rockwell “borrowed” their homes as backdrop, cluttering his paintings with their tchotchkes.

The people in his paintings were also the people in his audience, and he created for his audience the reality that we all yearn for. It’s a world where the minutia of our lives, our simple milestones, our joys and our sorrows are important. Rockwell celebrates the mundane. We are the celebrities on the cover of his magazine.

—Marjorie Masel
Copyright ©2011