Just as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg captured American life in films such as “American Graffiti” and “E.T.”, Norman Rockwell portrayed American life on canvas.
Why these filmmakers collected Rockwell paintings.
The paintings of Norman Rockwell have so much in common with the movies that it seems natural that these great filmmakers would be attracted to Norman Rockwell paintings.
The paintings collected by Lucas and Spielberg are on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. until January 2, 2011. In the video at the exhibit, Spielberg describes why he has the painting of a boy on the high dive in his office. The boy is kneeling down on the edge of the high dive, staring down with wide eyes at the great distance down to the water. Spielberg says the painting reminds him of the great leap he takes each time he starts a new film project. It is like leaping off a high dive.
Norman Rockwell the artist.
Norman Rockwell drew on his life experiences for his art work, spending summers in the country, reading story books, and drawing at home and at school. One of his first jobs was creating pictures for the Boy Scout magazine, “Boys’ Life.” Rockwell was a commercial artist who made drawings and paintings for advertising, but was best known for his work on the cover of the magazine, the “Saturday Evening Post.”
Because he had a purpose or a commission in mind when he painted, the way Norman Rockwell produced his art had a lot in common with the way Lucas and Spielberg produced their films. Rockwell had a room full of props and clothes which he used to dress the people he chose as the cast for his paintings, and each one was produced as if it were a scene from a film.
Some favorite paintings.
While Rockwell’s paintings evoke happy times and the perfect life, the exhibit quotes him as saying, “I paint life as I would like it to be.” The paintings capture on canvas a moment in the lives of ordinary people, but each painting manages to tell an entire story. The painting, “Going and Coming,” is split into two parts to tell the story, as the family of parents, kids, grandma, and dog are off on a trip. As they go, everyone is excited and eager, but as they return, even the dog looks tired. Only Grandma sits solidly with the same expression. She’s seen it all before and nothing fazes her.
The picture, “Happy Birthday, Miss Jones,” appears in two forms and brings together the collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. The pencil drawing is from the collection of Lucas, while Spielberg owns the oil painting. There are small differences to note between the original drawing and the final painting. Rockwell was encouraged by his eight-grade teacher, Miss Smith, to draw, and he enjoyed the opportunity to get recognition for his talent.
Books and photographs just don’t do these paintings justice.
While not many of us will get the chance to see these particular paintings in the homes or offices of these famous movie makers, the work of Norman Rockwell is available at museums, especially The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where he lived for many years.There are many reproductions in books, but seeing some of them in person is well worth the trip to a museum. The paintings are much larger than expected, and the colors and details add to the pleasure of these wonderful works. While some consider Norman Rockwell to be “just an illustrator or “just a commercial artist” anyone seeing them in a museum will appreciate the great paintings by this wonderful artist.
Source: Brochures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum and personal experience enjoying the exhibit.