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Norman Rockwell: One Visitor's Review
August 26, 2010

Image by Craig Thoburn

Norman Rockwell Tribute ©2010 Craig Thoburn

Photographer Craig Thoburn, a big fan of Norman Rockwell, set up his own backdrop to make this wild Rockwell Saturday Evening Post homage to the artist. His brother was more than eager to pose. Here's what Thoburn said about Rockwell and our exhibition Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg.

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When I look for inspiration in my own pursuit of photography, I've frequently gone to Rockwell's work. Ron Schick, in his book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, points out that Rockwell was an accomplished photographer whose photography inspired many of his paintings. Throughout his book are photos Rockwell had taken when he was staging his models. Seeing these I came to realize that one thing I really enjoy about Rockwell's work is his studies of people and their emotions.

I recently visited the Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Smithsonian's American Art Museum. I listened to a short documentary in which two of Rockwell's collectors, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg---modern day storytellers---talked about his influence on them and the inspiration his work had on their lives and their careers. They spoke of his ability to tell a story in a single frame, why they collected many of his pieces and how much they meant to them as they honed their craft.

As I browsed their collection and looked at each piece, I was moved by Rockwell's storytelling ability. I'd seen his paintings many times, but seeing them in person was a completely different experience. There were instances where his original charcoal drawings were hung next to the final paintings. You could see the story evolve as he removed extraneous elements and focused in on his characters and their emotions. I discovered that even his brush strokes contributed to the stories in his paintings. The textures would be smooth and delicate for many of his characters and rough for others. The simple environments had a dimension to them that brought the characters to life. The attention to details big and small stood out in a way they never had before.

I walked through the entire exhibit twice, and as I walked away I was smiling. Norman Rockwell's paintings tell many stories individually, but as a group they tell the best story of all. They paint a beautiful picture of a very special time in our country and our history. A picture of our nation's greatness, our morality and our beliefs.

Last year I decided to create a photographic image as a sort of tribute to Norman Rockwell's work and in the process try to better understand how he was able to capture such emotion. I asked my little brother if he would pose for a photo. Without blinking he ran to his room, put on his best cowboy outfit and proceeded to tell me all about cowboys, as my camera snapped away. My little brother is a great storyteller too.

Posted by Jeff on August 26, 2010 in American Art Here


"They paint a beautiful picture of a very special time in our country and our history."

It's funny that you can't look at a Rockwell painting and not wonder if life wasn't better back in the day. I always feel nostalgic looking at his art and I'm sure that I am not alone.

As a child, my mother had a big Norman Rockwell coffee table book. The images in the book were magical to me. I think it was my first experience that art was created by an individual and the art was a reflection of that individual as well as the world around him/her.

As I grew, my tastes have changed. Norman Rockwell's work was no longer something I put a lot of value in. Since revisiting his work, I realize the profound influence his work had on me. It literally changed the course of my my life.

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