speaking of norman rockwell

This post is completely reblogged.  I came across it HERE yesterday while looking for more of Jason Claiborne’s work.  I became curious about Norman Rockwell’s own views on race.  Angelo Lopez broke it down pretty well, as far as Rockwell’s work is concerned anyway, and I thought I’d share.

Norman Rockwell and the Civil Rights Paintings

By Angelo Lopez

Fifty years after he first started doing work for the magazine, Norman Rockwell was tired of doing the same sweet views of America for the Saturday Evening Post in the early 1960s. The great illustrator was increasingly influenced by his close friends and loved ones to look at some of the problems that was afflicting American society. Rockwell had formed close friendships with Erik Erickson and Robert Coles, psychiatrists specializing in the treatment of children and both were advocates of the civil rights movement.

His most profound influence was his third wife, Mary L. “Molly” Punderson, who was an ardent liberal and who urged him in new directions. On December 14, 1963, Rockwell did his last cover for the Saturday Evening Post and he began working for Look magazine. Look magazine finally gave Norman Rockwell the opportunity to express his social concerns.

Rockwell’s first painting was The Problem We All Live With, one of his greatest paintings. This painting depicts Ruby Bridges, the little girl who integrated the New Orleans school system in 1960, being escorted to her class by federal marshals in the face of hostile crowds. It’s a simple picture, the disembodied figures of 4 stiff suited men and the vulnerable yet defiant figure of a school age African American girl marching lockstep. To the right is a tomato staining a wall, obviously thrown at the girl but just missing. My eyes focus on the girl and her immaculate white, a contrast to the graffiti stained wall in the background. As a painting it’s a wonder, with it’s composition conveying Rockwell’s message in a few simple figures. To look at the picture, go here.

An even greater departure from Rockwell’s usual sweet America paintings is Southern Justice, painted in 1963. Rockwell did a finished painting, but the editors published Rockwell’s color study instead, and I think his color study conveys the terror of the scene more successfully. It depicts the deaths of 3 Civil Rights workers who were killed for their efforts to register African American voters. It is done in a monochrome sienna color, and it is a horrifying vision of racism. A look of it can be seenhere.

Rockwell’s most optimistic view of the civil rights movement wasNegro In The Suburbs, painted in 1967. It depicts an African American family moving into a white suburban neighborhood. The African American children look over by the kids in the neighborhood, with all the children sharing a love of baseball, America’s game. This painting can be found in this gallery.

3 thoughts on “speaking of norman rockwell

  1. Wow!! I really enjoyed this post. This guy was a friend of Erik Erickson’s…I’m glad you decided to search for more. The civil rights paintings are awesome!

  2. Fascinating and wonderful. Thanks.

    I’m trying to get it together to do a quick heads-up about Rockwell over at my blog art-is-essential.blogspot.com and it’s fascinating to learn more about this aspect of his work; I’ll link to your post.

    Fascinating. Thanks.

  3. Very good post and a fantastic read. You’ve brought up some valid points. Good work, keep it up. I adore returning back to this website and browsing the good content you always have on offer.

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