Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Dilemma

The year was 1943. The U. S. was in the throes of WWII. GIs were fighting in both the Pacific and Europe. At home, folks were experiencing scarcity. Sugar, coffee, and even gasoline were being rationed. In this environment, Norman Rockwell was commissioned to illustrate the Thanksgiving issue for the Saturday Evening Post. Thus was Rockwell's dilemma. What to do?

Rockwell knew that with the complete mobilization of the nation and the scarcities created by the war, it would be difficult to show a table laden with food. He thought of the soldiers slogging through winter in Europe or humid, rainy jungles in the Pacific. What would they think of such an image?

He decided on a composition showing what it meant to have a warm and secure life. To that end, he titled his illustration, "Freedom from Want." That was genius. It told those that were fighting and the people back home who supported them, that they were fighting for a safety of the American homeland.

Rockwell personalized the composition by placing the viewer at the table. He emphasized the folks (including the viewer) in conversation and avoided a food-laden table. Soldiers who were so far from home could place themselves in the scene. In fact, all Americans could place themselves in that the painting. No wonder it became an icon of Thanksgiving in the U. S.

As you look at the composition, is there anything else you notice as to how Rockwell solved his dilemma? What are the feelings that you have when you look at the painting?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. R.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Wintry Joy !

As you may have guessed, I enjoy flowers very much. Their presence always makes me smile. From the first crocus popping up to announce spring to the late fall when only a few brave flowers continue to bloom, they bring me enjoyment.

Some of my first art works in both watercolor and pastel were flowers. Even my first woodblock prints were... you guessed it...flowers!

When I was thinking about what I wanted to add to my card series, I thought about the the flowers that cheer us through the dark days of winter. Oops! I did say "flowers," which is true but for one exception - holly. I think it's a berry... anyone?)

Here are the new series of pastels. If you would like to own or give a gift of this card series, please check my page on Etsy (Link here) or contact me directly. It's always fun to hear from you. Now, for your pleasure, "Winter Floras." (Click on image to enlarge.)


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

History and the Woman Artist

A few years ago, I attended an exhibition of woodblock prints at a local art museum. Since this was a show of ukiyo-e (see Blog Archives "Japonisme and the Impressionists"), there were a considerable number of works by Japanese masters. This was to be expected. However, there were also color print works of a very high quality rendered by late-19th/ early 20th century American and European women. I was surprised and intrigued. Curiosity got the best of me - always does - and I did some research.

I found that there were well-respected women woodblock artists and printers who studied in Asia - especially Japan. The ones who were highly recognized enjoyed sold-out exhibitions, solo shows in Japan and acceptance into the inner circles of art. Some of the women artists/printers who enjoyed that kind of fame during their lifetimes included Helen Hyde, Elizabeth Keith and Bertha Lum. (Hyde print at top left; Keith on right; Lum on left)

Characteristically, they were focused and independent-minded women. Keith prided herself on being a self-taught artist, Lum was married but went to Japan to study, and Hyde, who never married, was delighted when her art allowed her financial independence. Lum and Keith would live into the 1950s. Yet, what do we know of them today?

Historically, there are few women artists whose works are known in wider circles. In all probability, almost anyone can name 20 or more male artists for every one woman artist who has reached such a lasting reputation. Why do you think that is?