25 November 2010


Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, Round 3A
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2 . . . and the Interlude)

By the time George Washington was done with him, Daniel Boone was only raking in pity votes. Forgotten Facts about George Washington beat And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable by nine votes. (It could have been ten, but CMinor showed up with some compassion.)

Here is another mini face-off, one especially dedicated to our American friends . . .

Couple Uncrating Turkey vs. Cousin Reginald Catches the Turkey

For the sake of all the art snobs reading this, let's have some Rockwells that nobody can say are anything more than illustrations. (But darn good illustrations nonetheless.) Believe it or not, I like both of these paintings better than the famous depiction of Thanksgiving which actually made it into the smackdown. The uncooked turkey and other ingredients manage to give a greater sense of abundance than the ready-to-eat spread on the table . . . and although I love my meat and poultry, I'm always cheered to see an underdog--or in this case, an underturkey--fighting back.

I'd plug the "100+ Followers, 10+ Friends" Giveaway again, but I think you'd all vote, anyway, whether there was a chance to win anything or not. (Heck, sometimes I think you'd pay me for the chance to vote--because I'd pay myself. But losing the chance to vote is all right because it's also heaps of fun to set them up! But I digress . . .)

What's more important to announce is the surprise at the end of this post. (Ooooh! What could it be???) Be sure to click "Keep Reading!" if you don't already make a habit of it!

Round 3A
The "Freedom from Want" Four

Freedom from Want . . .

Let's pause to reflect on the excellent triptych we have with the two paintings in the mini face-off and this proud finalist. Freedom from Want is clearly the most timeless. If you ignore the old fashioned clothes and the outdated hairstyles (which is what we do whenever we meet up with our embarrassing relatives, anyway, right?), then this painting could be of a happy, well-off modern family.

In fact, many graphics wizards have treated this painting as another sort of canvas, changing the clothes, hairstyles and even the characters as they pleased, knowing that as long as the bare bones of the arrangement remained--the woman with the turkey, the man at the head of the table, the faces crowding in--every American would understand what they meant.

So we have redneck families, vegan families, dysfunctional families, superhero families, TV families, and even zombie families. All America represented! (LOL for the zombies!) . . . And indeed, if the people around your own table don't resemble Rockwell's ideal at all, you'll eventually run into a parody that your family could have posed for.

And yet . . . there's something about that "timelessness" which strikes me as a deliberate attempt to be generic on Rockwell's part. And I don't think that's a good thing in art. The mini face-off's two illustrations are quaint and obviously "set" in the past--and yet both radiate, without even trying, ten times the charm of Freedom from Want. Maybe another reason this painting is parodied so often is that while we all love it for what it stands for, we all know that it's also incredibly bland?

. . . Girl at Mirror

My inner art critic (which is nothing if not impish) believes that if you had given Rockwell the following incomplete analogy . . .

Thanksgiving : turkey :: Girl : _________

. . . he would have filled in the blank with "doll." =P

But yeah, I'm just giving him a hard time now. This doll is actually one of his best. It is the old self-image, discarded now that the girl is starting to see herself plainly for the first time. And really, the most "Rockwellian" element in this painting is the magazine picture, simultaneously the sharpest and most dated detail. The inevitable question is whether the glamourous model can give our young girl a better self-image than the doll did. And we are, of course, inclined to be optimistic.

While drafting this post, however, I found myself growing more and more unsettled. I was thinking that I could look at the girl's face for hours . . . and then realised she could probably look at her own face for hours, too. And we all know what happened to the first person who couldn't tear his eyes away from his own reflection, don't we?

I've always thought that the best thing about blogging is the timestamp. What you mean with all sincerity one week, you won't mean next week. And so I hope the ladies reading this will understand when I say that all the blogging I've had to do over Girl at Mirror has convinced me that FrB's first impressions of it were right.


Freedom from Want vs. Girl at Mirror

Winner: Freedom from Want--by a beak . . . and not just because it would be a rotten thing if it came out the loser on Turkey Day!


And now for the surprise--which made more sense when we had a score of Forgotten Facts 100%, Comes to Life 0%, but which I'm leaving in, anyway.

This week, my friends, you get to vote twice! First in the mini face-off, just for fun, and then for our smackdown again, for keeps.

Here is good old George again, who did so well that we're going to give him a wild card shot for the title of Final Winner . . .

If the choice were between Freedom from Want, a painting about what Thanksgiving has come to mean, and Forgotten Facts about George Washington, which is a more romantic look at the statesman who would later make the first Thanksgiving Proclamation . . . which painting would you vote for?

And yes, if General Washington pulls another victory out of this, he will make it to the top two!

As always, the combox awaits . . .

Image Sources: a) Couple Uncrating Turkey, b) Cousin Reginald Catches the Turkey, c) Freedom from Want, d) Girl at Mirror, e) Forgotten Facts about George Washington


Salome Ellen said...

"Uncrating" and "George", please. I think both of them come nearer to art, whereas the other two are closer to "illustration." Which suits the mood I'm in tonight; don't ask me tomorrow! ;-D

EegahInc said...

I'm going with Uncrating because it looks like Rockwell is doing something similar to what he did in The Connoisseur (the one with the man staring at a faux-Pollock painting) where he shows that he is quite capable of producing work in any genre. Take a look at the curtains. They strike me as very Alphonse Mucha Art Noveau. And they're just hanging in the background!

Oh, and George of course, what with his (ahem) sword at the ready and all.

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

I choose Couple Uncrating Turkey. It's a sweet scene, family intimacy. I am a sucker for family scenes.

As for which image concerning dear old George is more romantic, I choose Forgotten Facts about George Washington, because that's the George that's less familiar to me and that scene truly is romantic. It shows a sweet vulnerability in a grand man.

Enbrethiliel said...


Ellen: Thanks for voting! If you do decide you want to change your vote, you have a whole week! ;-)

Eegahinc: I did as you said and took a closer look at the curtains. I have no hope of appreciating them as an artist would, but I agree that they're not ordinary curtains. (And Aslan isn't a tame lion. And such.)

But I do like the way the composition of the painting seems so straightforward (because of all the squares) but can call to mind a cornucopia of abundance (because of the way the food "spills" out of the frame.

Irena: Thanks for voting again, too! =)

For some reason, I'm drawn to young couple in Couple Uncrating Turkey more than to the older couple in Freedom from Want. At the same time, I'd like to think that the young husband and wife grew up into the patriarch and matriarch. Wouldn't that be great? =D

Birdie said...

Yup, being perverse as usual, I'm so going with "catching the turkey" because it makes me happy, whereas the other just reminds me of Thanksgivings I'll never have again.

Also, George is made of win

Enbrethiliel said...


LOL! I think I would have voted for Cousin Reginald, too. He's such a "whipping boy" for Rockwell--or a "Eustace Scrubb," at least--that I can't help but root for him, too.

And let me say now that I'm honestly stunned--and very impressed--by how well George is doing! He could totally win this whole thing!!! I had thought that Freedom from Want would put up a greater fight because, although Forgotten Facts about George Washington is indisputably the superior painting, the former is more recognisable and more in line with what we've come to expect from Rockwell. (Which is to say . . . typical? LOL!!!) Anyway, we'll see how it goes. =)

Thanks for voting, Birdie.

CMinor said...

Okay, I'm going with George this time--because as you adeptly pointed out, the competition is sooo parodiable. And I think I'll pass on the zombie version, thank you.

I'm with Cousin Reginald all the way in the mini-smackdown--action + slapstick--what could be better than that?

Irena @ This Miss Loves to Read said...

You know, I wasn't familiar with Rockwell before, but I really enjoy your smackdowns and I am starting to like Rockwell's work a lot. They contain so much life, for the lack of a better description on my part.:)

Enbrethiliel said...


CMinor: But "parodiable" can be good! =P

(Just arguing for the sake of arguing again. Don't mind me!)

And yay for Cousin Reginald!

Irena: Oh, I agree that they are full of life! =D There are paintings that are so realistic they make me feel as if I could step into a scene, but Rockwell's work--even the mere "illustrations"--make me feel as if I could step into an entire world. A fun world!

Lesa said...

I lean toward the contrary side so I vote for catching the turkey-- too funny. Turkeys aren't the most attractive creatures but I like looking at the feathered one rather than the nekkid one-- that poor plucked thing grosses me out!

A vote for george as well!

Can't believe you crossed over to the 'dark' side!! Would it make a difference to know that Rockwell regretted painting in the magazine?

Enbrethiliel said...


Oh, I still love Rockwell very much! And it makes me a little sad he regretted those magazine illustrations, because I like them best. (The boy scout illustrations . . . not so much! =P)

Thanks for voting! It looks as if Uncrating and Catching are tied now. Let me see whom I can drag to this blog to break the tie . . .

Belfry Bat said...

im in ur comboxz, breakin ur ties...

o hai!


Having looked at both pictures, I can't figure out how this got tied in ten comments. of course, I haven't read those comments, so ... =P I guess.

OK, so the uncrating picture has broader colour. Meh. This is fundamentally between a dead turkey and a very much alive turkey. Now, if the dead turkey at least looked deliciously cooked, it might deserve to be a closer competition; but as things are, it's just kind of dull; the turkey to be caught makes things so much more exciting, and I think Rockwell himself enjoyed the live turkey rather more.

There's so much about the stop-motion dynamic of the live turkey and its audience, I can't help but feel drawn in (hee!) to the scene.

So: the live turkey wins, and if I could cast ten extra votes to make it a landslide... well, I probably don't care that much, but there we are.