A biography of the painter who for sixty-five years portrayed America for Americans as they liked to see themselves
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Joel H. Cohen has published thirty books, most of them for young readers and most with or about prominent athletes and entertainers such as Hank Aaron, Jim Palmer, Bill Cosby and Lucille Ball. His articles have appeared in various magazines and newspapers, including Sports Illustrated for Kids, Scholastic Scope, American Girl, TV Guide, Parents and the New York Times. He and his wife, Nancy, have four children, and live in Staten Island, New York.Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:
Norman Rockwell leaped out of bed with "the best idea I ever had" -- how to paint the Four Freedoms -- President Roosevelt's ideals for peace -- in a way that was understandable to everyone: (He'd) use his neighbors as models and illustrate the ideas in simple, easily grasped scenes.
They differed from Rockwell's usual painting, a cheerful, often humorous, view of American life: ..a bare-bottomed boy about to get a shot examining the doctor's diploma...a middle-aged man skinny-dipping...a doctor examining a girl's "sick" doll with a stethoscope.
"Maybe as I grew up and found that the world wasn't the perfectly pleasant place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be and so painted only the ideal aspects of it...
"I paint life as I would like it to be."
A choir boy who participated in his share of pranks, Norman had an enjoyable childhood. But Norman was so embarrassed by his pigeon toes and spaghetti arms, sometimes he'd limp or pull his sleeve down so people would think he had just one hand and feel sorry for him. It upset him that he lacked athletic ability.,
"All I had was the ability to draw, which as far as I could see didn't count for much. But because it was all I had, I began to make it my whole life. I drew all the time... (and) gradually my narrow shoulders, long neck and pigeon toes became less important to me."
A teacher helped him get drawing assignments: tombstone inscriptions for a catalog (which he based on living classmates).
The editor of the Boy Scouts magazine, Boys' Life, made Norman, hardly older than its readers, art director.
Movie director Steven Spielberg discovered Rockwell's artistry in a poster he saw at weekly meetings of his Boy Scout troop. "My love of Norman Rockwell is apparent in a lot of my films..."
In a career of some 65 years, Rockwell completed over 4,000 works of art, including nearly 400 covers, calendars, portraits of U.S. Presidents and such celebrities as John Wayne and Colonel Sanders.
Rockwell did more than 320 Saturday Evening Post covers. The Post printed a quarter-million extra copies whenever its cover had a Rockwell painting.
A wonderful story-teller through pictures, Rockwell painted average American in a "feel-good" way that evoked sympathy, admiration, and usually a smile or chuckle.
With the United States at war in 1918, Norman decided to enlist in the Navy. At the recruiting office, though, the gawky artist was told he was way below the minimum weight. But he really wanted to get in. Would he take the treatment? Sure. What is it?
Simply, stuffing himself with bananas, donuts and water for hours, until he gained seven pounds. Finally, when he felt he was about to burst, the Navy doctor and yeoman shouted, "We've won!" He weighed enough.
From the cheerfulness, volume and popularity of his work, you'd think Rockwell was a simple, devil-may-care, self-confident artist who just dashed off his chuckle-inspiring paintings.
But he was a complex man, deadly serious about his art, a stickler for authenticity, a meticulous craftsman, whose paintings show careful observation and technical skill. Rockwell, who painted every day, even Christmas, was a student of the classical painters
Norman wanted everyone to like his work, and he'd ask everyone who came to his studio to comment on a painting.
"If Rockwell hadn't been a master storyteller-in-print," wrote Kenneth Stuart, "he could have been a marvelous actor."
Norman acted out for his models the exact expression he wanted -- sneezing, for instance, or scrunching up his face at the prospect of bad-tasting cough syrup. He'd ask the model to make a face "like sucking lemons" or "raise your eyebrows way up," sometimes pulling up the model's eyebrows himself.
Posing sessions were always fun for the models. Most looked forward to posing for him -- in one town, a legitimate excuse to get out of school.
Always seeking models, he left his own anniversary party to enlist a prospect. Most cooperated perfectly, especially the mother who stuck her happy baby with a pin to make him cry, as the painting required.
Norman's young sons were paid a dollar for posing, while children outside the family got two dollars or more. To keep his child models interested, he'd stack up nickels (or, for younger children, pennies). Then, at each rest period, he'd transfer five of the coins to the other side of the table, announcing that's what the model had earned so far.
When he planned the cover of a tomboy with a shiner, he offered five dollars to any boy or girl with "a ripe black eye." Norman rejected a father's offer to give his daughter one if he'd choose her as the model.
World War II was fertile ground for Rockwell's special touch. He portrayed the conflict in understandable human terms, often humorously, focusing on the individual GI or, more often, the people back home. As the war drew to an end, Norman painted dreamed-of homecomings.
Anywhere he lived, the pigeon-toed artist, tall and skinny became a familiar, beloved figure. Everyone liked him, partly because he was intent on having everybody like him.
Rockwell felt strongly about tolerance. "I am angry at unjust prejudices, in other people or myself."
His painting, "The Problem We All Live With," presented a young black girl being escorted into an all-white school by four Federal marshals. She walks past a tomato-splattered wall on which a racial insult has been written.
Some works were just funny -- an overweight chef eating pastry while reading a diet book; a sailor having the name of his current girlfriend tattooed on his arm, under the crossed-out names of past loves; partially clothed boys running from a swimming hole past a "no-swimming" sign.
Whatever the subject, Rockwell celebrated kindness, decency, friendship, family ties and patriotism. He painted America at its best.
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Descripción Franklin Watts, 1997. Library Binding. Estado de conservación: New. Never used!. Nº de ref. de la librería P110531202666