New Column! by Aubrey
Hi! My name is Aubrey Tuggle, and I am a seventeen year old junior. I am the oldest of three siblings under seven, so the house is never quiet! However, I still find time to pursue my hobbies of reading and writing. I would love to become a freelance writer, and am pursuing a writing career.
Norman Rockwell: The American Idealist
When people think of America, they think of many things. Some think of soda shops, hamburgers, and fries. Others think of hard work, family, and patriotic pride. Just about everyone thinks about Norman Rockwell. How can we help it? His paintings embody both ideas of America; the nostalgia and tradition, and the wholesome values and morality.
Rockwell’s paintings, however, depict less of the reality of what America was, and more of an ideal Rockwell dreamed for America.
During World War I, for example, Rockwell painted many pictures of soldiers. These were not the uniformed men, however, that were suffering through a living hell for American lives. If Rockwell didn’t tell us, we would think they were civilians out on a pleasure trip. The pictures depict soldiers, strolling through lush foreign vistas, enjoying pretty girls and gorgeous scenery. These were not the realities of war, just Rockwell’s ideal of what war should be like. Sadly, it was very far from the truth.
Rockwell’s Four Freedoms pieces are also rather idealistic and smug, considering that many Americans, in fact, were not experiencing these freedoms at all. One painting that especially stands out is Freedom from Fear. It depicts a mother and father peacefully standing over their sleeping children. Although it was supposed to communicate that parents could put their children to bed with security, knowing that they would not be bombed in the night, many Americans were worried that America would be attacked at some point.
However, we needn’t be too hard on Norman Rockwell. Even though his paintings seem to show an insensitivity to personal hardship, Rockwell knew what he was doing. As a child growing up in a bad neighborhood, he had many unpleasant experiences, like seeing a man cruelly beat a woman and knock her down, seeing a friend’s drunken uncle drop dead on the doorstep, or seeing gangs meet on the streets to fight. This led him to write later, “Maybe as I grew up and found the world wasn’t the perfectly place I had thought it to be, I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn’t an ideal world, it should be, and so painted the ideal aspects of it.”
He wasn’t trying to ignore the bad in life; he was simply trying to show his audience how to find the good in life, the things that go unnoticed when trials come. And he did not fail his mission; his patriotic optimism will always be a part of the American viewpoint. When we smile in the midst of a disaster, knowing that it will bring us together, when we smile in the midst of our tears, when we feel enobled at the death of a hero, knowing he died for our lives; we embody what it means to be an American, and for that, we can thank Norman Rockwell.