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Thoughts on writing and publishing, and the various sources of entertainment...
A weekly column by Abel G. Peña, best known for his Star Wars work.

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THE PHILODOXER for 12/10/2006
The Art of Norman Rockwell

I have a few favorite painters. When I see a Monet, I remember with adoration the imperfection of this world; the breadth of Goya's work reminds me of our desire for self-destruction, and analytical cubism appeals to my craving for the illusion of chaos. But when it comes to good old-fashioned "realism," in tone and form, nothing beats a Rockwell.

Many "serious" art critics consider Norman Rockwell's work unremarkable, easy enough to understand given its superficially naive quality. But for someone like me with a taste for pop culture, Americana, and golden oldies, Rockwell strums the perfect strings. Known for his bold portrayals of human mischief, affection, and awkwardness, Rockwell lovingly depicts us heroically in our everyday lives, yet with touches of rascality and self-consciousness like in-turned toes and corner-eye looks. The always-comical, almost-caricature quality of his oeuvre assures us that the artist is in on the jokes too.

Normal Rockwell:332 Magazine Covers

One of the finest collections of Rockwell's work is Christopher Finch's Norman Rockwell: 332 Magazine Covers. With full-page color treatment, the collection spans Rockwell's career from 1916 to 1963, and includes examples from Country Gentlemen, Literary Digest, and Ladies Home Journal. But with over 300 representative samples, the spotlight is clearly Rockwell's iconic Saturday Evening Post covers. Here are such famous art pieces as No Swimming, Doctor and Doll, and the recently rediscovered Breaking Home Ties, such personal favorites as Child Psychology, Girl at the Mirror, and Triple Self-Portrait, and of course Rockwell's gaggle of Christmas-themed paintings.

The book's focus on periodicals means it's missing some of Rockwell's most controversial works, created after he retired from The Post, like the civil rights pieces The Problem We All Live With and Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi). But 332 Magazine Covers is still an ambitious and mesmerizing compilation.

For a more complete overview of Rockwell's paintings, check out Norman Rockwell's America also by Finch, and for holiday cheer, check out <i>Norman Rockwell's Christmas Book by Molly Rockwell.

See you next week, folks!

- Abel G. Peña

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