Norman Rockwell

Great American artist or mere illustrator?

2 November 2022

Digby hall , hound street, sherborne at 3 pm and 7 pm

A celebrated and prolific twentieth century American painter and illustrator whose work has probably been seen by a larger audience than any other artist in History! His work enjoys broad popular appeal in North America and abroad where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of scenes of everyday life he created for The Saturday Evening Post.

Today there is little debate about Rockwell’s technical competence but that does not explain the continuing popularity of his work and the fact that when on rare occasions his paintings do come to auction they sell for millions of dollars! So, what is it that gives his paintings such acclaim? One distinguishing feature of Rockwell’s work is that many of his paintings tell poignant stories that invariably make us smile. He is sometime referred to as ‘A storyteller with a brush’.

In this lecture we will explore the boundary between ‘art’ and ‘illustration’, even Rockwell said he was not sure of the difference. We will then examine Rockwell’s methods of working before analyzing a range of his immense output. During his professional life he met and painted many of the most famous people of the mid twentieth century. In addition, we will refer to his personal life that was both interesting and complex, he married three times.

In 1977 Norman Rockwell was presented with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in recognition of his contribution to American culture. The accompanying citation provides a apt summation of the lecture.

‘Artist, illustrator and author, Norman Rockwell has portrayed the American scene with unrivalled freshness and clarity. Insight, optimism and good humour are the hallmarks of his artistic style. His vivid and affectionate portraits of our country and ourselves have become a beloved part of the American tradition’

John Ericson

John Ericson worked as a lecturer at the University of Bath where he was Director of Studies in the School of Education with responsibility for the professional development of teachers. He has worked extensively overseas as an educational consultant and this has given him the opportunity to give lectures and presentations at conferences all over the world. Over the last decade he has been a popular speaker on the Arts Society circuit in the UK and Europe as well as a frequent visitor to the societies in Australia and New Zealand. In his professional life he has developed a particular interest in presentation skills including the role of pictures in learning and the appropriate use of PowerPoint.