Art Review, Norman Rockwell, Christmas Homecoming

24 Dec

I couldn’t have picked out anything but Norman Rockwell for this Christmas.  There are people who don’t like him very much, who think of him like Thomas Kincaid, but I think that’s a little sour.  It would be like disliking It’s a Wonderful Life because it isn’t as deep as Citizen Kane.   Another reason people sometimes dislike him is the strong scent of nostalgia coming from his work, and while one can tire of seeing his things on endless mugs and posters and hotels and whatnot, I can’t help but say there’s a huge difference between him and other nostalgic artists.

If you want to look at things as they are, Norman Rockwell is not your man.  He is all about idealization, but at the same time, it’s a distinctive idealization–it’s how we would like things to be.  There’s some criticism that he never shows illness or death, he rarely shows anybody being even more than momentarily unhappy, but these are not his subjects, and he shows that how things should be, when he’s at his best, can be every bit as deep as navel gazing over how things are.

In this image a soldier returns home.  In one hand is a suitcase, and in the other is an armful of presents.  Behind him, his son holds his hat.  Two girls are dressed in identical jumpers, and in front of him a whole extended family crowds forward showing their individual expressions of joy.  The thing is that each joyful face is so idiosyncratic and tells you a ton about the relations there.  The father with his pipe and his raised eyebrows, the woman holding up her baby, another women in the back waving up her hand, the older woman smiling and paying very close attention, and in front of them all his wife, whose face looks happy, and infinitely relieved.    You know, not every soldier gets this kind of homecoming, maybe not very many, but every soldier should.

And there are a million little details that add to it.  Of course the mother would dress her daughters alike, of course the little boy would want to hold his father’s hat,  of course the man’s suitcase would be poorly packed (he was in a hurry to get home after all).

And that’s the other thing, I wouldn’t like this picture if I felt like it was phony–that the emotion here was put there to wring one more tear out of an old lady’s eye–I don’t think it is so.  I think Rockwell believes very strongly in the goodness of human connection, in warmth, in family, in cheer, and I think that these things in themselves are what we have to hope for, no matter what your circumstances.

One Response to “Art Review, Norman Rockwell, Christmas Homecoming”

  1. segmation December 24, 2012 at 6:34 pm #

    Norman Rockwell’s Artwork has inspired the Christmas Holiday.

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