Norman Rockwell and illustration

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Norman Rockwell and illustration

From Brian Shapiro

Published before 2005


I wanted to add that I somewhat understand what the writer of the article means about Rockwell. Its actually true that if you look close at a Rockwell painting he uses a great amount of texture in his painting, but its not something immediately noticeable, you don't realize it until you take a close look at his paintings. On the other hand, I think many artists including academics like Bouguereau you immediately appreciate his color and form, and texture in his paintings in addition to the subject, because it has a strong impression. And in fact, I think Rockwell's paintings have less of a direct visual force through color and form, and more through the pictoral choices he makes. In that sense, I agree that he was a picture-maker, though I don't think picture-making is exclusive from traditional painting like the writer suggests, I think it was a large part of art. But at any rate, you can tell from looking at a Rockwell that his works were not necessarily meant for photographing, but designed as illustrations, in the same way you can tell a drawing by Gustave Doré is an illustration.

I mentioned this some time ago on the list, when Doré created large-scale paintings, one of the criticisms he was given was that his paintings looked like 'blown-up illustrations'. And this makes sense to me, at least with some of his paintings; they focus more on creating the picture than on the form in the painting, which other artists such as Bouguereau excelled at. I think something similar can be applied to Rockwell. At any rate I dont think this necessarily diminishes eithers art, just that it is not appreciated the same way. But the point is just to say that I can understand where some of the opinions in the article come from.