October 3, 2006

Norman Rockwell as a major 20th Century artist

The test of an artist's historic importance is his influence on later artists. By this standard, the popular Saturday Evening Post illustrator Norman Rockwell is normally judged a failure since few painters since have dared to show evidence of being influenced by Rockwell. But, to write off Rockwell is simply a mistake based on too narrow a vision of art forms.

Take a look at how Rockwell actually worked. He didn't keep to his garret and paint visions from inside his head. Instead, he ran a large operation: he'd audition models until he found the perfect ones for the story he had in mind. Meanwhile, his set builders would be creating an entire set for the models to pose in.

What art form does that sound like? Right -- Rockwell was, in effect, engaged in single frame filmmaking. As an art form, it was something of a dead end because as technology advanced and the world got richer, an artist might as well make an entire movie rather than just one frame.

But that doesn't mean Rockwell's influence died out. Instead, it leapt from painting to movies. And, as almost everybody will admit by this point, film was a far more important art form in the 20th Century than painting. And which filmmaker is most outspoken about the influence of Norman Rockwell on him? Steven Spielberg, who, for all his flaws, will likely be remembered as the most important filmmaker of his generation.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

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