Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) was one of the most influential artists of the last century. In 1916, when he was only 22 years old, he had his first major success: he made the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. He quickly gained traction, becoming known for his covers of The Saturday Evening Post. He was known for his creativity, wit, and social commentary. It became a staple of American households; families awaited this current event update brought to them through the artistic cover of the news. Over his career, he created over 320 covers for The Post and spanned 5 decades of news. He was especially well known for his incredible ability to capture the beauty and richness in “the commonplaces” He didn’t look for the most stunning, horrifying moments to paint; he highlighted the underlying emotions in the simplest scenes – the ones that any American would relate to. There are decades in which every cultural shift has illustrations to go along with it; this is all thanks to Norman Rockwell. Some of his most famous covers related to segregation, family life, war, and all of the dynamics that go along with these topics.
As many incredible art pieces as he has done, the one shown above is my favorite of all. This piece goes by many names; it’s sometimes referred to as “Sunset”, sometimes “Boy and Girl Gazing at Moon”; my favorite name it has been given is “Puppy Love”. The first time I saw “Puppy Love”, I stood alone in a museum staring at it for half an hour. I kept telling myself to do that nod-and-sidestep-move that is so prevalent in museum perusing. As much as I wanted to just move on from this art piece, I was absolutely entranced. I still am every time I look at it. Something about the tone and pain behind it leaves me searching for every piece of understanding I can grasp. The posture of the boy, his well-tamed hair, the way his arm lands around her waist. I search the lines of the girl; I can’t help myself. I watch the way she leans into him, the way one arm hangs off the bench, the daisies limp in that hand, the inward angle she holds her feet. The tone of the bench, the subtle expression of the dog, everything about this piece has so much emotion entrenched in it. The way this image highlights a period of time that is inherently fleeting but so simple and filled with love is amazing to me.
Subtle emotion is the magic of Norman Rockwell. He could paint a street full of parked cars and it would evoke deep memories or anger or complications in the viewer. He didn’t paint the battles, he painted the soldier on the train alone. He didn’t paint the drama, he painted everything underneath it. I will never be able to look at the painting “Puppy Love” without tears in my eyes and I think that illustrates a talent that very few possess.