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Norman Rockwell-1

Among the D Day 75th anniversary celebrations, the city of Caen in Normandy, France,  has the honor to welcome some of the paintings of Mr. Norman Rockwell. In 1942, the artist was inspired and convinced by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s address to Congress of January 1941. The American President in his last part of his speech outlined the principle of four freedoms, guaranteeing a way of life everyone could identify with: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. This is how Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings were born. In addition to these paintings, the exhibition gathers some of Norman Rockwell’s most important artwork attesting his reflection of his times.

Norman Rockwell

 

These Rockwell’s Four Freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear are still overwhelmingly popular. They were reproduced in four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post in February and March 1943.

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Freedom from Want, 1942

Among those Four Freedoms, on a personal basis, one of them has a special signification: “Freedom from Want”. Here Rockwell has painted a family celebrating this typical American holiday.

The young lady with a lovely smile on the right is, Florence, my best friend’s Mother and on the left, facing her, is her Grandpa, Charles. You now understand why I did mention this painting is very close to my heart.

There are also other people from the artist’s circle, the woman serving the turkey is his cook. On the left is his second wife while on the right is the painter’s Mother. To be noted, as far as I am aware, all the people were initially photographed by Rockwell and then painted, while only the cook was modeled.

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Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes, 1945

Painted in 1945, Rockwell had planned to portray a group of people giving thanks however, with the end of the war in sight, he decided instead to paint a soldier’s homecoming.

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Marble Champion, 1939

Paying tribute to the world of childhood that was beloved by Norman Rockwell, a little girl dominates a marble game to the great dismay of the two boys. I am specially fond of the mischievous expression of this young girl!

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War News, 1944

Intended as a cover to The Saturday Evening Post but never completed, “War News” pictures a restaurant counterman and his customers listening to a radio news report. Rockwell decided not to submit “War News” to the newspaper because it was hard to convey what the men were hearing.

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Ticket Seller, 1937

Rockwell had, other than art, another passion, travel. You will notice in that painting that the guy seems to be bored having given up selling tickets for Europe or the Orient. I was interested in the contrast between the man enclosed in his booth and the dream of far away places symbolized  by the ads displayed outside his window. “Ticket Seller” illustrates the difficulties that American society was going through during 1929, but nevertheless there’s in that painting a glimmer of hope and humour.

During his stay in Arlington, Vermont, the artist met Robert Otis and the young man was modeled as Willie Gillis, an unassuming fictional Army private.  At the time, Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Selective Service and Training Act requiring men between the ages of 21 and 35 to register for military service. Many young people were drafted into the Army. Otis was still too young to fight but he eventually began his service in 1943. During his deployment, Rockwell was able to continue his character’s adventure by working from photographs.

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Willie Gillis: Food Package, 1941

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Willie Gillis in Church, 1942

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Family Home from Vacation, 1930

Published almost a year after the 1929 crash, Rockwell’s cover illustration of The Saturday Evening Post portrays a weary family that had managed vacation despite challenging times. Notice the box camera at the woman’s feet in which were captured all their adventures as well as the shovel and wilted bouquet, isn’t it a way for us to give a sense to the family’s experience?

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Deadline (Artist Facing Blank Canvas”, 1938

Meeting deadlines and thinking up ideas are the scourges of an illustrator’s life“, Norman Rockwell said. Although he often posed for his own paintings, Rockwell did a few paintings in which he is the sole character. “Deadline” is one of these.

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The Problem We All Live With, 1963

In 1963, Norman Rockwell ended his 47-year collaboration with the Saturday Evening Post, seeking new artistic challenges. The illustrations he created for Look magazine represented a shift toward a more direct and journalistic style.

‘The Problem We All Live With” was published on January 14, 1964 in the pages of Look magazine to commemorate the ten year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling meant to end segregation in American public schools. In a white dress, walking down the street alone with federal agents in front and behind her, whose faces are not shown. Rudy Bridges (the model is Lynda Gunn) appears dignified. This painting highlights the contrast between the security surrounding the little girl and violent racist acts, as shown by traces on the wall behind her.

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Dress worn by Lynda Gunn 

 

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Golden Rule, 1961

In “Golden Rule”, Norman Rockwell painted a gathering of men, women and children of different ethnicities and religions.

Discussing this painting, Rockwell said: “One day, the idea suddenly came to me that the Golden Rule ‘Do unto others as you would have them to do unto youwas the subject I was seeking.”

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Liberty Girl, 1943

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Rosie the Riveter, 1943

To produce “Rosie the Riveter”, Rockwell was inspired by Michelangelo’s 16th century Sistine Chapel ceiling painting of the Prophet Isaiah, thus giving his Rosie the image of a modern day icon. Rosie is a woman with a determined look in her eye and body which has become muscular from factory work. Don’t miss her foot firmly planted on Adolf Hitler’s “Main Kampf”.

Both of these women in “Liberty Girl” and “Rosie the Riveter” are representative of the way Rockwell liked to depict his female figures: strong, independent and equal to men.

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JFK’s Legacy: The Peace Corps, 1966

For this painting made in 1966 is a tribute to John Fitzgerald Kennedy murdered in 1963. Rockwell chose to tightly frame a group of faces in profile representing the diversity of society and all look in the same direction.

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The Saturday Evening Post: portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy murdered in Dallas on November 22nd, 1963. Cover illustration for newspaper published in December 1963.

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Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) is the most popular painter in American history. His career marked by 47 years working with The Saturday Evening Post weekly magazine, reflected the concerns and issues of American society for close to seven decades. His artwork reflects his exceptional stance on societal and world issues.

Thank you for your work, Mr. Rockwell!