IHAS: Artist/Movement/Ideas
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"I paint life as I would like it to be," Norman Rockwell wrote in his autobiography. "The view of life I communicate in my pictures excludes the sordid and the ugly." And yet, paradoxically enough for an artist whose stated intention was the idealization of people and events, his paintings and illustrations achieved for him a reputation as one of art's most skillful realists.

THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH from THE FOUR FREEDOMS by Norman Rockwell, (19430).
Norman Rockwell, (1943).
Born and educated on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Rockwell studied at the National Academy of Design and the Art Students League, working first as an illustrator of children's books before being hired as a cover artist for THE SATURDAY EVENING POST in 1916. The widespread circulation achieved by these nostalgic, sentimental, witty images of average citizens engaged in everyday pursuits contributed to the mythos of the common man in America. There were families who worked and played and fought and prayed together; there were people in every size and shape and from every walk of life, captured in the instant that suggests narratives. With the chords of stability and optimism which they struck throughout the turbulence of the 20th century , Rockwell's characters became beloved icons of aspiration--rose-tinted mirrors of the American Populist Dream.

American Populist

Of these genre scenes, all rich in emotion and richly accomplished in technical detail and handling, none achieved more universalacclaim than his 1943 epic series, THE FOUR FREEDOMS (FREEDOM OF SPEECH, FREEDOM OF WORSHIP, FREEDOM FROM WANT, FREEDOM FROM FEAR) Published first in the Post, the original canvasses were exhibited throughout the country as part of the Treasury War Bond Drive, and reproductions by the millions made their way into homes, schools, and civic buildings, articulating a message of solidarity, pride and hope that served as a national inspiration.

After World War II Rockwell and his family relocated to Stockbridge, MA, where he spent the last twenty-eight years of his life and where a new museum now houses the quintessential documents of Americana that are his artistic legacy.

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