norman rockwell at dulwich – correction

22 January 2011 § Leave a comment

My sincere apologies to Norman (god bless his soul) who I inadvertantly renamed Normal Rockwell in a recent post entitled ‘Normal Rockwell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery’. I suspect that I subconsciously revealed my thoughts on the exhibition before I had even started writing! Perhaps the title was in that way somehow very appropriate after all?

The Daily Telegraph for example broadly agrees with my blog but adds some interesting comments at the end emphasising the exhibitions value as an indicator of social history:

But go to these Saturday Evening Post covers and what you find beneath the broad humour and occasional sentimentality is his heartfelt love for what he sees as the American virtues of tolerance and understanding,

Rockwell’s limitations are the limitations of commercial illustration. He never criticised either his country or a political party for the simple reason that the purpose of his Post covers was to sell magazines, and you don’t do that by antagonising any one sector of society. Even so, Rockwell’s own politics (he was a broadly liberal New Englander) are worth bearing in mind, because references to the social divisions that exist in US society are there if you look for them .

The show at Dulwich is worth seeing for many reasons, but I left it feeling unhappy, but not quite able to put my finger on why. Later, it came to me: whatever their political views, in the country I grew up in everyone thought of themselves as American. Today the US is polarised in a way that was once unimaginable. It’s not nostalgia his illustrations made me feel, it’s loss.

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