Norman Rockwell Painting Smackdown, Round 3B
(Revisit Round 1, Round 2, the Interlude, and Round 3A)
Last week's Turkey Day face-off ended with victory for the live gobbler as the ironically named Cousin Reginald Catches the Turkey beat Couple Uncrating Turkey by a single vote!
We have also have a definite winner for our first finalist: as both Daniel Boone and the Underwood Portable before it, Freedom from Want didn't stand a chance against Forgotten Facts about George Washington.
Now let's have this week's mini face-off:
The Connoisseur vs. The Tattoo Artist
Here we have Rockwell the illustrator playing around with the idea of "art." I've said elsewhere that his pitch-perfect parody of a Jackson Pollock might have been what earned him the ire of art snobs everywhere. On the other hand, one hopes the "inked" community appreciates his light satire of the permanency of their own chosen medium.
And now what you've all been waiting for--the contender which will take on the ridiculously victorious General George Washington in the final round . . .
The "Freedom from Want" Four
No Swimming . . .
Rockwell loves his emblems, no matter how obvious. If Thanksgiving must have a turkey and girls must have dolls, then boys must have their puppies. But the puppies are far easier to forgive than the dolls because, as you can see here, they participate in the plot.
This painting almost went up against Freedom from Want because it expresses the same kind of universality the latter was going for. For there are boys like this in every country in the world--and in every period of history. Who could blame any young lads for taking an illicit dip on a hot day--a bit of trespassing that really doesn't hurt anyone--and then hightailing it half naked so that they don't get caught? Even better, who has been one of those young lads?
Well, I've never been a boy, but I've always been a reader. So it was easy for me to compare them to Tom Sawyer (and Huck Finn!)--and even to Peter Pan . . . or at least to Tootles! Now let me throw in Tommy Bangs, too. (You know which book he is from, right?) If I were a better reader, I'd also know whether any of Tom Brown's or Beetle's company of friends could stand up to the same comparison. But I am at least a passable big sister and I recall one episode from Camera Man and Cue-card Boy's younger days in which they could have been the inspiration for this very painting.
Which brings me to another thing I've always loved about Rockwell: the way his paintings seem to be sneak peeks into greater stories. This one is a prime example. And while we're on the subject, wouldn't it be hilarious if those three fleeing boys--
. . . The Three Umpires
--grew up to be these stoic old umpires? =P
Believe it or not, I hadn't known the rule about rain until I watched an old Hollywood movie. A couple is making up after a fight while watching a little league baseball game (Yeah, it's contrived; but stay with me!). The woman can't believe the man is willing to wipe the slate completely clean, when it starts to rain. The pitcher of the losing team is so thrilled at the promise of a fresh start that he does backflips . . . and Kim Novak, much more moved by the same, kisses James Garner under a shared rain slicker.
So what we have here is kind of a "grace" rule--baptismal imagery and all. The baseball diamond isn't where we expect to see the first being last and the last being first--but sports arenas were "baptised" as early as the first century by St. Paul himself.
Yet note that these umpires aren't priest figures. In Round 1, I compared them to the three Fates of Greek mythology. What they say goes and you can rail all you like against them to no avail. And yet . . . these three male "fates" are obviously men under orders (if you catch the allusion from another faith). They don't look any happier about the rain than the coach whose team was winning . . . but rain is rain and baseball is baseball.
Going back to the idea that baseball was the sport of America's Greek period, I wonder whether summer baseball games served a similar cathartic purpose to Ancient Greek's own tragic drama.
No Swimming vs. The Three Umpires
Winner: No Swimming--because there is effortless magic in Rockwell's most light-hearted illustrations which never really made it into his more serious works.
Now before we jump into next week's final round, let's have another wild card entry. Because, you know, it's fun. =P
Besides, pairing the most famous three boys in art against this solemn triumvirate of umpires has put me in the mood for a third corner to this post. And what better painting to challenge today's victors than that depicting the unlikely trinity of diner owner, policeman and runaway boy?
In short, you're voting twice again this week. Shall our other top two finalist be No Swimming . . . or The Runaway?
Image Sources: a) The Connoisseur, b) The Tattoo Artist, c) No Swimming, d) The Three Umpires, e) The Runaway