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Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence Hardcover – October 1, 2006

ISBN-13: 978-0226314402 ISBN-10: 0226314405 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 218 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226314405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226314402
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.7 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,147,392 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Rockwell and his images remain central to twentieth-century U.S. cultural history, too popular to ignore and yet, as Halpern reveals, more complex than many concede."
(Julia L. Foulkes The Historian)

About the Author

Richard Halpern is professor of English at the Johns Hopkins University. He is the author several books, including Shakespeare among the Moderns and Shakespeare’s Perfume.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Malvin VINE VOICE on December 26, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
"Norman Rockwell: The Underside of Innocence" by Richard Halpern offers an unique perspective about the art of Norman Rockwell. Although Rockwell has heretofore largely been dismissed by serious art historians as a painter of kitschy sentimentality, Mr. Halpern's interdisciplinary study opens up new lines of inquiry into the meaning of Rockwell's work. In this intriguing and exceptionally well-written book, Mr. Halpern succeeds in demonstrating how Rockwell's best paintings transcended the medium of commercial illustration for which they were originally produced and should rightly be appreciated on their own merits as enduring works of art. Thanks to Mr. Halpern's sophisticated analysis, we can look at these images with fresh eyes and begin to appreciate Rockwell's art anew.

In particular, Mr. Halpern's keen understanding of art, Freudianism and American culture helps us to discover hidden meanings contained within some of Rockwell's most successful paintings while providing insight into the artist's life and times. According to Mr. Halpern, the key to uncovering Rockwell's greatness lies in our willingness to see these images as the products of a fallible human being who desired to be a better person and to inhabit a better world. Within many of Rockwell's finest paintings, the ideal and the real coexist; yet the deeper meanings of these works have often been denied to us due to our own underlying discomforts and cultural assumptions.

For example, among the many middlebrow viewers for whom Rockwell continues to endure as an artistic icon, sexuality has probably remained the most problematic aspect of Rockwell's art. Fortunately, Mr. Halpern sensitively explores the various sexual themes that are infused within Rockwell's work in a mature, nuanced, and provocative manner. Mr.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Henry Berry on September 10, 2007
Format: Hardcover
While Norman Rockwell's paintings are generally seen as imagery of all-American virtues, values, individuals, and scenes, the John Hopkins English professor Halpern sees them as "more challenging and complex" than even the most sophisticated critics have imagined in the recent revival of interest in Rockwell; which revival has mostly reaffirmed the general regard of his paintings. Halpern looks to Rockwell's famous painting "Triple Self-Portrait" for indication--and in a way confession--that there was more to Rockwell's paintings than is realized from the first impressions of their imagery and recognition and often identification with their subjects. Rockwell's insistent, undying "jokey inventiveness," evidenced more directly in his autobiography "My Adventures as An Illustrator," is seen in the often overlooked details of his paintings. The woman in "Rosie the Riveter" celebrating American women's role in the war effort of WWII has Irish facial features which identify her with the ethnic and working classes, not the middle-class matrons, businessmen, and shop owners who see their mainstream, traditional values represented by Rockwell. Also, Rosie's muscular arms go against the typical image of women as slender and in need of male protection. Halpern similarly interprets details of other paintings to find symbols or intimations of homosexuality, voyeurism, and other sexually-laden topics. Halpern does not go so far as to make Rockwell out to be lascivious or meanly subversive. The author does, however, argue and abundantly demonstrate the point that Rockwell's paintings are more complex, more Freudian, than this painter openly admitted to and than nearly all viewers realize.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Glenn Miller on December 17, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Halpern's look at the art of Rockwell is fascinating. As someone who has always appreciated Rockwell's story-telling and technical expertise, I was surprised by what Halpern was forcing me to look at for the first time ever. Halpern points out that there is no accident in an artist's choices and compositional decision-making. Whether Rockwell was making conscious or sub-conscious decisions in his in-frame arrangements may ultimately be beside the point. After reading Halpern's account, you may not look at a Rockwell's prints, calendars, or coffee mugs quite the same way again.
Halpern is successful in walking the line between pure academia and a book written for the masses. He also ends this volume nicely, pointing out those fine artists who have -- in one way or another -- carried on Rockwell's on-canvas story-telling.
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