Norman Rockwell

Karal Ann Marling, Author, Kara Marling, Author ABRAMS $45 (160p) ISBN 978-0-8109-3794-9
Beloved by the public but scorned by critics, Rockwell has long seemed a paragon of small-town Americanism--suspicious of urban modernity, possessed by saccharine good cheer and determined to ignore anything that tarnished that past. Although art historian Marling's (As Seen on TV) loving appreciation of his work does not exactly dismantle that interpretation (Rockwell provided ""a vision of our common life, in the heart of this century, as we might wish to have lived it,"" she writes), she points out enough exceptions to the standard account to make readers rethink easy stereotypes. In her engaging, roughly chronological amble through Rockwell's career, the author mounts no sustained argument, but the portrait that emerges from this lavishly illustrated volume is of a man whose vision broadened and deepened in response to the demands of history. Marling ably describes Rockwell's progress from ""rapscallions with cowlicks"" in his early years to his great wartime pictures and the witty popular modernism he mastered in the 1950s and the racial protest that impelled him in the '60s. Her exuberant, incisive readings continually reveal how much depth--personal, political, artistic, social--lay beneath Rockwell's deceptively simple surfaces. (Nov.)
Reviewed on: 09/01/1997
Release date: 09/01/1997
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