American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell
Anyone who has read the autobiography of Norman Rockwell, My Life as an Illustrator, should feel compelled to get a truer, deeper story of this amazing American phenomenon. Like Salinger, Rockwell is essentially unknowable. He does not lend himself easily to thematic translations of his large life. Humble to the point of self-humiliation, he managed anyway to become the best known illustrator of a century. Notice that his autobiography omits the title “artist.” He was a student of all genres, but kept true to his realistic portrayals of life in America. The first book about his life was nominally penned by him and omitted large details of his life story; his marriages, divorces, and a long bout with family mental illness. His life is notable for the great changes in the themes of his artwork rather than any major strides in technique; he was always a good painter, but not always artistically appreciated. It is wonderful that the studied author Deborah Solomon approaches Rockwell’s life, career, and paintings with respect and depth of understanding.
Norman Rockwell started his career as a magazine and calendar illustrator with the simplest of mythic quintessentially American themes: the Huck Finn boy in a series of purely boyish adventures. But then he breaks out with the tomboyish girl, a prefeminist with a shiner, pleased with herself – obviously the opponent got the worst of the deal. His career is topped by the incredible painting of the little black girl being escorted to school by US marshals. The huge coffee table book, Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, is very worthy of serious perusal as is this book about a remarkable American artist.
|Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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