My most favorite artist is Norman Rockwell. Last evening I had the privilege of receiving a private tour of the exhibit Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera at the Brooklyn Museum. What an awe inspiring experience!
Mr. Rockwell initially had people sit for his illustrations, from start to finish, which could amount to a lot of time. Eventually he turned to black and white photographs to compose his illustrations. This allowed him artistic freedom in color choice and composition. What I did not know was how cutting edge he was, not only with his social statements in his art work but also in technological use.
He used live models posed, often, against a white backdrop to remove all surrounding distractions. Multiple pictures were taken of his subjects. He had three different photographers he used. Taking each picture, he would clip the portions of the photo he wanted to use in the illustration, compiling them into one composite shot. Basically he “photo-shopped” them long before there ever was a thing called “photo shop”! He would then project these photos onto a screen and trace the picture before painting it! Imagine that! Though, he was quoted as saying he felt guilty doing it.
In the illustration commemorating desegregation of schools, the photos included multiples of only the hands of the men accompanying the little girl, intending to communicate the feeling of the event. The little girl is a composite of three different models. The tomato splat was drawn from the photograph of a tomato Rockwell threw against a wall in order to get the correct composition.
Some of his work never made it to print, like the below print. It is a very powerful piece, more so in person.
This is one of my favorites.
Normal Rockwell was more than an illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, Look Magazine and The Boy Scouts of America. He was a social commentator and a storyteller. He was an artist ahead of his time. I am glad he is finally getting the recognition due him.