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Norman Rockwell—Reimagining the World

USA | Thursday, 13 August 2020 | Views [69]

Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom at Denver Art Museum

Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom at Denver Art Museum

NORMAN ROCKWELL'S COVERS ON THE SATURDAY EVENING POST are as American as peanut butter and jelly, firecrackers on the Fourth or Mom's apple pie.  Many of us yearn for the America he depicted on the covers of more than 300 issues of the Saturday Evening Post over 47 years.  As it turns out, that America existed only in Rockwell’s mind—much like Donald Trump’s view of the USA is pure fiction.  

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              Norman Rockwell and The Saturday Evening Post—a slice of Americana

“Maybe,” Rockwell mused, “as I grew up and found the world wasn't the perfect place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be, and so painted only the ideal aspects of it.” 

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                 FDR's The Four Freedom's

The current exhibit at the Denver Art Museum, Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom focuses more on Rockwell’s depiction from FDR’s 1941 “Four Freedoms” State of the Union speech.  “My gosh, I thought, that’s it . . . I’ll illustrate the Four Freedoms using my Vermont neighbors as models.  I’ll express the ideas in simple, everyday scenes.”   

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    Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship 

His illustrations—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear—not only appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, but they helped raise more than $130 million toward the War effort as they toured the country.  But Rockwell’s Vermont neighbors weren’t representative of the nation as a whole.  Over the years other artists have reinterpreted the Four Freedoms with Asians, Blacks, Gays and other Americans not found in 1940s Vermont.

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  Rockwell's Freedom from Want        Freedom from Want reimagined

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  Rockwell's Freedom from Fear        Freedom from Fear reimagined

In 1960 Rockwell said, “The view of life I communicate in my pictures excludes the sordid and ugly.  I paint life as I would like it to be.”  But that changed with the 60s Civil Rights movement.  When the Saturday Evening Post objected to his use of African-American subjects he switched his allegiance to the more liberal Look Magazine.  

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              Escorting Ruby Bridges to School

One example of this more serious work which dealt with school integration is The Problem We All Live With. The painting shows a young black Ruby Bridges flanked by white federal marshals, walking to school past a wall defaced by racist graffiti, a truly sordid portrait of America in the 60s, and a major step forward for Norman Rockwell.  

 

 

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