As an aspiring artist growing up in the 40s and 50s, I was, like many artists of that period, greatly influenced by Norman Rockwell. Despite the fact that the Saturday Evening Post, which regularly featured Rockwell covers, had a policy of only showing people of color in menial roles, other than Ebony and National Geographic, there was little else being published that an artist could look to for inspiration.
As an artist, though, I am probably more observant than the average person, and I’m aware that Rockwell on occasion had people of color, African-American, Native American, or Asian, in his paintings. I wasn’t aware that he was thought of as a painter of a ‘white’ America – but, I was looking into his paintings, not just at them.
You can imagine, then, how surprised I was to receive a free copy of Jane Ellen Petrick’s Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Normal Rockwell’s Paintings. This compelling account of Rockwell’s career, viewed from the perspective of the models he used for his work, exposed a side of the artist I had never been aware of. Petrick has clearly done her research, adding an invaluable dimension to our knowledge of one of America’s artistic icons. Knowing his views on civil rights and equality makes me appreciate his work all the more, and his battles with ‘the suits’ who make editorial decisions makes the battles most of us freelancers fight pale by comparison
My only complaint about this wonderful volume is that it didn’t contain more Rockwell illustrations.