Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown!
There's only one exclamation point this time because I suspect I'm the only one with a say in this who gets worked up into raptures over a Norman Rockwell print. But really, I couldn't bluff my way through a paint-by-numbers book, so this isn't the blog to read if you like art.
As before, the first round in this smackdown is decided by your votes. You'll have until next Thursday to pick which Rockwell paintings make it to Round 2. Be heard in the combox!
And since there were so many more pairs I wanted to include but had to cut, expect some mini face-offs as we go along! =)
The "No Swimming" Sixteen
Boy Scouts vs. No Swimming
Norman Rockwell and the Boy Scouts of America: a match made in pop art heaven--if only because he was a man who clearly remembered what it was like to be a boy. The first painting appeared in the Boy Scout Handbook and so must be forgiven for looking like bare-faced propaganda. (Rockwell was uncannily good at propaganda.) You'll find more of a Tom Sawyer-ish air in the second painting of misbehaving boys, who clearly have a long way to go before they have a shot at Eagle Scout status.
Girl at Mirror vs. Girl with Black Eye
I think Rockwell does a pretty good job with children in general, but I'm not always sold on his girls. There are times when he seems to view them with the tolerant eye of a highly amused, but slightly befuddled uncle--the sort who can't think of anything else to get his nieces on their birthdays but dolls. Here I present one unusually meditative painting that has the look of a classic portrait (doll and all) and a funnier image in which the girl's delighted face tells the entire story.
The Roadblock vs. Waiting for the Vet
And then there were the dogs! Rockwell was definitely a dog person: for every doll he sneaked into a girl painting, there is a dog for a boy painting. Sometimes he just put dogs in there for the heck of it, which you must agree was wonderful of him. Above we have a little dog causing a big problem--one of Rockwell's busier canvases, depicting a mock-epic as adorable as it is hilarious--and a whole waiting room of pets and their owners, none as sweetly pathetic as one boy and his beloved pup.
The Dugout vs. The Three Umpires
Now I'm going to go out on a limb and say that baseball was obviously Rockwell's favourite sport. (Well, even if it wasn't, he certainly did it justice, and then some.) I chose the first painting because it tells us everything we need to know about the game without showing us any of the action on the field--reminding us that the action off the field is as essential a part of the baseball experience. And the second painting reminds me of the three Fates in Greek mythology, and that has to be a good thing.
Going and Coming vs. Gossip
One thing I really love about Rockwell's paintings is the way each one tells a story. (Unless, that is, we're talking about the unfortunate boy scout paintings.) We might have entered in medias res, but we all know the beginning and can guess the particulars of the certain happy ending. These two paintings put a little more effort in where plot is concerned--which you don't see very often in this medium. The first painting is as light-hearted as a "Spot the Differences" challenge; the second, a fantastic illustration of several morals, most notably "What goes around, comes around."
The Art Critic vs. Triple Self-Portrait
So many artists who get started on the subject of art come across as pretentious gits, but Rockwell seems to have a sense of humour. The optical illusions in the first painting are hilarious (And who is to say that paintings don't look askance at critics?), while the quirky self-image he reveals in the second painting makes it one of the most original of its kind. I think Rockwell knew he would never be one of the great Masters, but that it wasn't the end of the world.
Family Tree vs. Freedom from Want
Given that Rockwell's paintings are such a rich part of what we call "Americana," I had trouble picking two to represent his whole wheat brand of patriotism. I like the family tree because it is both a funny image and a decent history lesson. (If you look closely, you'll see the father's face show up again and again--once as a woman! LOL!) And then there's the famous Thanksgiving dinner, which is probably his most iconic painting, and the one most frequently put to the "Weird Al" test of art: Parody is the sincerest form of flattery.
Moving Day vs. The Problem We All Live With
For all his bright-eyed optimism, Rockwell also managed two very clear-eyed editorials about one problem that American society still knows all too well. The first painting combines his trademark slice-of-life storytelling with some very immediate dilemma ethics. The second is a powerful commentary on an event that made the national news and found itself a place in the national history.
Image Sources: a) Boy Scouts, b) No Swimming, c) Girl at Mirror, d) Girl with Black Eye, e) The Roadblock, f) Waiting for the Vet, g) The Dugout, h) The Three Umpires, i) Going and Coming, j) Gossip, k) The Art Critic, l) Triple Self-Portrait, m) Family Tree, n) Thanksgiving, o) Moving Day, p) The Problem We All Live With