I remember shortly after Norman Rockwell died, our art teacher Mr. Stewart prophesied (correctly) that Rockwell would shake the label of “illustrator” and one day be considered a fine artist. By Jove, Mr. Stewart was right. The same is happening for cartoon artists. Witness the reputations of the late Al Hirschfeld and Charles Shulz, not to mention that of the living Robert Crumb.
So what if he worked as an illustrator? So did Toulouse-Lautrec. Rockwell was a skilled artist who told stories in his work. He communicated ideas and a distinct point-of-view. Yes, he was paid by an organization to do this. So was Michelangelo. It was called the Church.
In Tyler Green’s excellent Modern Art Notes, Elizabeth Broun of the Smithsonian American Art Museum had this to say:
“Norman Rockwell for the most part was ignored by serious museums and art historians until recently. He’s still kind of unexplored territory and we think he’s still is not taken fully as seriously because that ‘illustrator’ label is attached to him.”
Mr. Green’s interview with Ms. Broun illustrates some of the ideas I’m talking about in this young blog. Where are the lines between cartoons, illustration and art? Why are the defined boundaries drawn as they are, and who defines them? When does illustration transcend the genre and become Art? I’ll submit this: a hack illustrator puts nothing of himself in his work. An artist like Rockwell does. Mr. Green’s post (and in fact his entire blog) is a good place to graze on subjects like this.
What do you think? Is Norman Rockwell not worthy of being called an Artist? Why?