Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was a famous American painter. He referred to himself as an "illustrator" rather than an "artist." He worked from the mid-1910s, as a military artist until the earl 1970s. He painted many scenes of American life, including "The Four Freedoms" and "The Family Dinner". In particular, he painted cover art for 317 issues of the Saturday Evening Post. His work was widely reprinted after his death, such as in Reader's Digest and on stamps.
LIke the pre-Raphaelites, his pictures tell a story, and the people in them have easily readable, dramatic facial expressions. Unlike the pre-Raphaelites, his pictures frequently display a keen sense of humor. His work was direct, popular, and commercial. His paintings of plain people in small-town settings (influenced by his years of living in New England) are sometimes derided as sentimental or "cornball," but he tackled serious themes as well. His 1964 Look magazine illustration, "The Problem We All Live With," showed U. S. Marshals escorting a six-year-old black girl into a previously segregated school.
While opinions of Rockwell vary from uncritical admiration to sneering contempt, those who love him and those who dismiss him do agree on one thing: his art embodies a distinctively American style of innocence. In his book, Richard Halpern argues that this sense of innocence arises from our reluctance—and also Rockwell’s—to acknowledge the often disturbing dimensions of his works. Rockwell’s paintings frequently teem with perverse acts of voyeurism and desire but contrive to keep these acts invisible—or rather, hidden in plain sight, available for unacknowledged pleasure but easily denied by the viewer.
- The Problem We All Live With, Guggenheim museum.