When I was growing up, we had a large coffee table sized book of Norman Rockwell paintings that stood on a special book stand near our front door. My parents would change the page open to view depending on the season, holiday, or when inspired. Although it was in a prominent place in my house for years, I never studied the artist’s work too deeply, but I did form an appreciation for his artistic complexity, humor, and his nostalgic depiction of everyday life of another time and place that was not my 1970’s suburbia.
A couple of weeks ago, I discovered Ron Schick’s book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, and I was immediately drawn to it. The book shows the amazing role photography played in the development of Norman Rockwell’s paintings. Rockwell liked to use live models for his sketches and paintings, but due to the incredible detail of his works, models had a difficult time holding poses long enough for him to complete his projects. According to the foreword by John Rockwell, Norman Rockwell’s grandson, “Photography was key to the development of Rockwell’s style, enabling him to fill his Post covers with complex, spatially convincing settings and the profusion of realistic detail characteristic of his art.”
This book documents the photographs used to create each painting. Characters, poses, facial expressions are all explored through the camera lens and then translated to paintings. Sometime many photos are used to create one complex painted scene. I am really enjoying examining the photos and the art pieces created from them. i think the collection of photos adds a further understanding and depth to the paintings. It is also interesting to see the paintings reflected in the real life medium of photographs.
I recommend checking it out. The book is available through the Norman Rockwell Museum or on Amazon. It runs around $40.