Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, Round 2
(Revisit Round 1--because it's where all the images are)
Let's start with one of those mini face-offs to take your mind off the fact that I'm wresting back control for this part of the smackdown. Here are two paintings that, in hindsight, really should have made it, aye?
Breaking Home Ties vs. The Runaway
Both paintings feature boys who believe they can make it in the big world beyond their homes. Each has a father or father figure with him: one resigned and willing to trust that his son will do well; the other concerned and probably trying some reverse psychology to get the boy to wait a few years before breaking his own ties to home.
Remember that voting for your favourite of these two earns you an extra entry in my
"100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!
"100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway!
And now for the winners of Round 1, whose fates are out of your hands until further notice. =P
Boy Scouts vs. No Swimming --> Winner: No Swimming
Girl at Mirror vs. Girl with Black Eye --> Winner: Girl at Mirror
The Roadblock vs. Waiting for the Vet --> Winner: Waiting for the Vet
The Dugout vs. The Three Umpires --> Winner: The Three Umpires
Coming and Going vs. Gossip --> Winner: Going and Coming
The Art Critic vs. Triple Self-Portrait --> Winner: Triple Self-Portrait
Family Tree vs. Freedom from Want --> Winner: Freedom from Want
Moving Day vs. The Problem We All Live With --> Winner: The Problem We All Live With
Before we proceed to what you've all been waiting so patiently for, I want to say that I've finally done away with randomisation. Pairs are more interesting when they make sense, don't you think? The good news is that we will never again see carnage like Predator vs. The Terminator until at least the Final Four. (I'm still sorry about that, Christopher.) The bad news is that I didn't really need another license to get long-winded, did I?
The "Waiting for the Vet" Eight
Going and Coming vs. No Swimming
Rockwell might not always get what girls are about, but his boys are usually perfect, in that carefree, I-could-be-a-Mark-Twain-character sort of way.
I think both halves of the first painting could have become individual works of art--but then he would have had to call them "First Day of Summer" and "Last Day of Summer" (or something similar) and shown them together, anyway. Rockwell is great at telling an entire story with the details of a single scene, but even he must have known that a summer holiday at the lake--an epic event in the life of a child (and a multi-faceted "dramedy" for the entire family)--needs more than one. Amazingly, without painting a single episode from the same, he managed to tell the tale with two!
The second painting is probably one of the most famous Rockwells in the world. It's just good. And it's not about the details (well, not so much), but about the spirit. That is, it has the classic appeal of Peter Pan, who is no boy and Everyboy. (And really, who doesn't love the way the dog is such a part of the gang??? If Peter had had a dog instead of a fairy . . . Oh, never mind!)
Winner: No Swimming--because this "Norman Rockwell meets Peter Pan" moment is freaking gold.
Girl at Mirror vs. The Problem We All Live With
Ever since the Mediaeval imagination decided that a young virgin martyr be the symbol for light in one of the darkest of months, we lovers of art and beauty have been able to see little girls as more than just little girls.
It was the first painting which inspired the most discussion in the Round 1 combox, everyone recognising that the subject has reached what J.M. Barrie might call the point of no return. She might not be a younger Orual, but she could be an older Wendy Darling: there's no going back to Neverland after this point, and that's both a shadow and new light in her life.
The second painting is of a real little girl; we don't have to mine literature for a character she could be. Ruby Bridges found herself at the centre of a furious hurricane when she became one of the first African-American students to be admitted into integrated schools. The first time I read her story, I cried to learn that only one teacher in the entire school was willing to teach her--and that they remained a class of two for a whole school year. (That would have been worth painting, too, aye?) Rockwell's depiction of this event reaches the stark and uncompromising standard set by the best photojournalism . . . but is that what we really look for in our art?
Winner: Girl at Mirror--because when the news of today is the history of tomorrow and we all wonder what the big fuss was about, we will still understand the gaze of this girl. (And because "Norman Rockwell meets Wendy Darling" is at least silver!)
Freedom from Want vs. Waiting for the Vet
And how do you like your animals? We find one at the heart of each painting--even if it's not the most fortunate member of its species! =P
It can't be fun to be a turkey during Thanksgiving! Unless, of course, you're the self-sacrificing sort--in which case, you'll be thrilled to be a source of happiness for some thankful family. This is hard for me to write about since I've never actually celebrated this holiday (unless a third Saturday in November at an American friend's house counts); indeed, when I was introduced to the first painting, I thought it could have been any nice family dinner. But the man peeping at me from the corner makes me feel welcome, anyway. The frame may be full, but there's room at this table! (Which would be a nice description of the whole United States as well.)
Now, I love Rockwell's dogs like anything, and wish I could take one home with me . . . but the second painting's puppy isn't a stellar representative of the whole kennel, is he? Then again, this isn't about just a dog, but also the boy who loves him. Boy-and-dog was Rockwell's Madonna-and-Child. If you look closely, you'll see that none of the other dog owners are boys; the waiting room might be full, but this lad's aloneness is more than an optical illusion.
Winner: Freedom from Want--because every third Thursday of November I ever spent with an American far from home has convinced me that Thanksgiving is the holiday of his country's heart.
The Three Umpires vs. Triple Self-Portrait
So we have three umpires up against three Rockwells. (LOL!) Here, it's all about the faces.
In the first painting, although it is the rain that provides the plot and the scoreboard and coaches (?) in the background that provide the context, all the soul is centred on the three main figures. This isn't one of Rockwell's busier canvases; our eyes are immediately drawn to the umpires' faces, which we follow to the ominous rain cloud . . . and that's all we need.
Then there's Rockwell's own face, which we see twice (sort of). Now, I'm not big on portraits because I usually don't know their subjects, but I could gaze for hours at the self-portraits of artists I know. There is a way of making stuff up about the truth that is not actually lying--and is, in fact, even more honest--and it is perfectly captured in a self-portrait's enigmatic gaze. The second painting's easel, mirror and other props are charmingly funny, but they are also distracting. While they make clever frames-within-frames, they obscure the real subject rather than show him off.
Winner: The Three Umpires--because the man who could communicate volumes with a single facial expression totally held back when it came to his own.
Image Sources: a) Breaking Home Ties, b) The Runaway