The Smithsonian American Art Museum has an exhibition of Norman Rockwell’s paintings in a show titled, “Telling Stories”. The exhibition runs till January 2, 2011. I visited “Telling Stories” a few weeks ago. There is no denying that the man could paint. His colors are rich . His craft of creating such realism is wonderful to see and technically hard to beat. Most of the his work does tell a story, with an element of folksy humor. Mr. Rockwell worked in advertising, and clearly also knew how to convey a message in a way that would appeal to most people.
In the Washington Post, Blake Gopnik writes, “Norman Rockwell is often championed as the great painter of American virtues. Yet the one virtue most nearly absent from his work is courage. He doesn’t challenge any of us, or himself, to think new thoughts or try new acts or look with fresh eyes. From the docile realism of his style to the received ideas of his subjects, Rockwell reliably keeps us right in the middle of our comfort zone.” (To read the whole article, please click on this link…Blake_Gopnik
For the most part, I do agree with this view. It does make me wonder, though, about Mr. Rockwell’s painting titled, “The Flirts”. I wonder , at the time it was painted, how much of a laugh it got. Isn’t it implying that sexual harassment is funny or cute, or , gosh, those guys are having such innocent fun?
This was painted in 1941. Was this considered “comfortable”, at least by the white males who viewed it? I have got to admit the the message of the painting is offensive, and all the technique in the world won’t change my mind.