Tuesday, February 21, 2012

A good look

Today lots of artists use photographs as a basis for their work - with Chuck Close probably being at the extreme end - so it's hard to recall just what an insult it used to be to say that an artist had ‘copied’ a photograph. Peter McIntyre used to cop it on this point from ‘serious’ art people. It was ironic really because although he did use squared-up photographs for some of his work at least as many came out of drawn observation in the tradition manner. 

All this comes to mind on seeing Ron Schick's book Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. It includes the photographs that were the basis of Rockwell's most memorable paintings and immediately reminded us of the classic advertising images you can find in the National Library collection. Here’s one droll example that happened to remind equally droll tweeter Cheryl Bernstein of an old and “extremely vulgar joke.”

And then there are these images of Rockwell's photographic set-up enabling him to render his own Triple self-portrait. Bizarrely it was later recreated as a sculpture for the studio museum dedicated to his work. 

And so Norman Rockwell had the unique opportunity to look at a painting of himself in a photograph looking at himself looking into mirror.

Images: Top the photograph directed by Norman Rockwell. Bottom left Triple self-portrait on the cover of Saturday Evening Post 13 February 1960 and right the sculpture of Triple self-portrait at the Rockwell Museum. You can see many other examples of Rockwell's photography by putting "Norman Rockwell photographs" into Google images search box.