An intelligent student who left high school to pursue art. An artist who crafted more than 300 covers for the Saturday Evening Post, over a span of 5 decades. A humanist who called for social change with his work. A painter who is cherished to this day for his compelling portrayal of American culture…this is Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell’s depictions didn’t just reflect the contemporary state of America, they also invoked change in society. His paintings are widely celebrated for the visual impact they have had on people to this day.
In this article, we break down 5 Norman Rockwell Paintings, and how they impacted the contemporary culture:
“Four Freedoms” Called For The Defense Of Universal Human Rights.
Although nobody could’ve initially seen them as such, The Four Freedoms Paintings were pivotal in defining the spirit of both American art and way of life. These paintings were inspired by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s iconic 1943 speech about civil rights. They consisted of 4 parts: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear and Freedom from Want. They played an integral role in preserving American freedom and helped unite the public behind Roosevelt’s call for the defense of universal human rights.
“The Problem We All Live With” Highlighted Racial Inequality
Although many people associate Rockwell’s work with an idealistic perspective on America, his works have often included not-so-optimistic social commentary that called for change – such as The Problem We All Live With. This painting was inspired by the blatant racial oppression present in American society at the time. The young black girl in the illustration is Ruby Bridges. Bridges was the first black student to arrive at William Frantz Elementary School right after the Constitution declared segregation of public education to be unconstitutional. When the teachers refused to interact with Bridges – she was escorted out of the school by federal marshals – as the painting depicts. Rather than prosperity and nostalgia Rockwell’s paintings often contained – this was The Problem We All Live With.
“Home For Christmas” Symbolized The Holiday Season
If there’s one image in our minds that has come to symbolize the holiday season – it’s Home For Christmas by Norman Rockwell. This was an affectionate portrait of Rockwell’s hometown – New England town in the 1950s. In the painting, you can see his South Street home and studio converted from an old carriage barn. Rockwell made the painting for McCall’s magazine in the 1960s, and the image became an instant classic. It remains highly memorable to this day.
“The Golden Rule” Called For Interfaith Harmony
“I’d been reading up on comparative religion. The thing is that all major religions have the Golden Rule in Common. ‘Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Not always the same words but the same meaning.”–Norman Rockwell
The Golden Rule is one of Rockwell’s most poignant paintings – depicting a multi-racial crowd standing in union besides the phrase “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The painting shows a gathering of people from different religions, cultures, and ethnicities, and was part of a series of paintings by Rockwell that explored socially conscious subjects. The painting is impactful to this day, now resting as a fixture in Manhattan’s United Nations headquarters.
“Rosie the Riveter” Emphasized The Strength And Contributions Of Women In War
Rosie the Riveter was first used as a name in a 1942 song. She is a cultural icon that represents women working tirelessly in shipyards and factories during the war. Rockwell presented Rosie the Riveter as a painting for a 1943 cover of Saturday Evening Post. Rosie’s figure has been painted as muscular and large because she is meant to depict strength. Rosie the Riveter has now become an iconic symbol for the contributions of women during World War II – and Rockwell’s interpretation of her is perhaps the most renowned and famous one.
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