jayellebee's Blog

January 9, 2013


Filed under: Musings — Joanne @ 6:22 pm
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  blog pix 131   Prolific.  That’s the first word that came to mind  after visiting the Norman Rockwell exhibit on display at the Crocker Museum in Sacramento, California, through February 3rd.   Three galleries are devoted to Rockwell’s work, and even so there is only space for a small fraction of his thousands of pieces. 

     All 323 of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers are hung, arranged in chronological order.  My friend and I merged with an impressive crowd on a weekday morning and took our time enjoying each and every illustration.  Many made me laugh out loud: boys in various stages of undress, looking over their shoulders as they race away from a “no swimming” sign; Willie Gillis, Rockwell’s iconic WWII soldier, holding a package from home, surrounded by other soldiers of every rank and description, all hoping for a share of the booty; the frustrated husband and wife facing off across their kitchen table, each holding campaign literature for opposing politicians.  

     I’m struck by how many words it takes me to even begin to describe any of Norman Rockwell’s paintings.  A brief documentary at the museum quoted the artist as saying, “I love to tell stories in pictures.”  And tell them he did, without a single caption.  “The Post could expect to sell an extra quarter-million copies of every issue with a Rockwell cover.”  [Judy Goffman Cutler, American Illustrators Gallery, NYC]

    Although the Post covers may be Norman Rockwell’s most well-known illustrations, he pursued many other artistic adventures.  A series of four paintings helped sell war bonds.  He illustrated ads for raisins and toothpaste.  He created the poster for “Stagecoach,” a successful 1966 western, and even had a cameo in the film, playing  Busted Flush, a luckless gambler.     Portraits of presidents, world leaders and stars of stage and screen looked more like photographs than paintings. 

     Rockwell often worked with models, posing them just so.  He would demonstrate facial expressions and physical positions for them to imitate.  Sometimes a person’s leg or arm would have to be propped up with a stack of books or held in place with ropes and pulleys as Rockwell strived to get everything just right.  Only then would he have his photographer take the pictures from which he would later work.

     Normal Rockwell chronicled an idealized image of American life for decades.  His first Post cover appeared in 1916, his last in 1963.   He presented common themes with uncommon insight.  His audience never had to wonder what a picture meant.  Social issues and politics were fair game, but everyday events were more typical subjects of study.


     The subtle details Mr. Rockwell included in each of his scenes added such depth.  The longer I studied a piece, the more I noticed.   And even then, sometimes as I began to move on to the next display my friend would lean over and point out something I hadn’t seen. 

     I’ve been told poetry demands thoughtful word choices, every syllable matters.  If so, poetry must be the literary equivalent of Rockwell’s art where every brushblog pix 130 stroke serves a purpose.  If you’re planning to be in the area of the American River Parkway or Old Town Sacramento and have the chance, I encourage you to see this exhibit.  Norman Rockwell won’t disappoint, nor will he waste a moment of your time.   www.crockerartmuseum.org



  1. Most illuminating, Joanne. Thanks for detailing this experience you had and letting us see anew a well. I especially like the painter in the last photo, the one painting her reflection in the mirror which becomes the man with the pipe. Super!

    Comment by Jean Georgakopoulos — January 9, 2013 @ 7:30 pm | Reply

  2. Sounds like a great writer’s/artist’s field trip to me! Thanks for writing about this wonderful man.

    Comment by lizbooks — January 10, 2013 @ 12:23 pm | Reply

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