defending rockwell


Critics would likely seize upon the sight to observe that popular approval does not equal artistic quality, especially when the art in question is insufficiently socially aware. Certainly that’s the view of Washington Post art critic Blake Gopnik, who in reviewing the show derided Rockwell as the cowardly, “aw, shucks” epitome of Middle America. Rockwell “doesn’t challenge any of us, or himself, to think new thoughts or try new acts or look with fresh eyes,” wrote Gopnik. “From the docile realism of his style to the received ideas of his subjects, Rockwell reliably keeps us right in the middle of our comfort zone.” This perception of the artist’s work as soothing sentiment for the masses is nothing new, but “Telling Stories” proves it simplistic. The show, drawn from the collections of fellow storytellers George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, confirms that Rockwell had a deep understanding of America’s character and a masterly ability to convey it to canvas. True, his vision focused on our virtues, not our sins. But only in the self-loathing landscape of contemporary intellectual thought would that be cause for criticism.

more from Ryan L. Cole at City Journal here.