Norman Rockwell is a real gem of an American artist.
He wasn't widely accepted at the start of his career, yet I find more truth in his paintings than in those by other artists.
His figures' characteristics and features are odd, humorous, and warm — but while they feel exaggerated and almost cartoonish, they make such an impression because of how real they are.
Rockwell photographed real people for his paintings.
Though staged, Rockwell used real people to create his artwork — creating an authenticity in the rendering that stays with the viewer long after they've passed by one of his paintings.
They are sweet, sentimental, and idealized snapshots of life, but they often recall a memory of a similar situation I may have found myself in growing up, or are similar enough to other depictions of a particular scene that they act as a springboard to other artworks, books, movies, or stories I've heard.
Rockwell's talents were clear early on, attending art school at the age of 14 and rolling out his first Saturday Evening Post covers by 21.
The museum houses a beautiful collection of his works, and when I visited there was a gallery with American artist Frank Schooner's works, which were the typical style of the late 19th century, setting the scene for what Rockwell grew up with.
Thanks to a generous donor, the museum's ground floor houses several hundred first editions of Post covers.
During WWII Rockwell was commissioned to paint a war scene by the Ordnance Department of the US Army, but after attending his local town hall meeting Rockwell was inspired to paint four pieces that depicted the different voices on the home front.
Over time, his skill was acknowledged and sought after by various publication editors, most especially the Saturday Evening Post, advertisement companies, and public figures to create paintings and portraits.
As the '50s and '60s progressed, his work continued to call attention to the social and political conversations — painting hard scenes of the Vietnam War for the Evening Post and depicting critical moments in the Civil Rights Movement, like Ruby Bridges' famous walk into William Franz School.
He was a prolific artist, inspired to share truth in the every day.
And he's an American artist that you don't want to miss!