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Plus: The Rockwell wars: Five decades of critical division

The Norman conquest: Yes, Rockwell is here, but it's only one of five intersecting shows at NCMA 

Plus: The Rockwell wars: Five decades of critical division

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The Rockwell wars: Five decades of critical division

... the Rembrandt of Punkin' Crick. —John Canaday, art critic, 1972

... the Lawrence Welk of the world of art. —Allison R. Ensor, cultural historian, 1984

... a sort of pictorial Mark Twain. —Alden Hatch, writer, 1979

Our Dagwood Bumstead of art, Rockwell has always been the perfect homely barometer of national self-identity. —Michael Kimmelman, art critic, 2001

Steeped in the history and rhetoric of Western painting, Rockwell was a visual storyteller of genius. More than that, he was a story-maker, a bard. He didn't illustrate Middle America. He invented Middle America. —Peter Schjeldahl, art critic, 1999

Even the most brittle cynics melt in the presence of all that wholesomeness. —Robert A.M. Stern, architect

It was television, not modern art, that did Rockwell in. —Peter Plagens, art critic, 1999

What [the public] wanted was a friendly world, far from calamities of history, shielded from doubt and fear, set down in detail, painted as an honest grocer weighs ham, slice by slice, nothing skimped; and Norman Rockwell gave it to them for sixty years. —Robert Hughes, art critic, 1978

Norman Rockwell was homelier than apple pie, more American than the flag, gentler and more affirmative than Dad, and that was what the American public in the early 1950s wanted. —Hughes, 1997

What'd you do, grow up in a Norman Rockwell painting? —Woody Allen to Diane Keaton in Annie Hall, 1977

His pictures, idealized as they are, remind us that the American ideal wasn't always a matter of bling, great rooms, "home theaters," and other hallmarks of modern American schmuckdom. That's one of the big things that jumps out from his paintings: the utter lack of affluence depicted in them. Another thing: an emphasis, over and over again, on community. —David Kamp, writer, 2009

[Rockwell] saw an America of such pride and self-worth. My vision is very similar to his, for the most part because of him. —Steven Spielberg, filmmaker, 1993

The artist always seems to be selling something, be it optimism during a time of hardship, patriotism in wartime, or any number of products for which he created seductive illustrations for magazine advertisements. —Benjamin Genocchio, writer, 2009

Aside from being an astonishingly good storyteller, Rockwell spoke volumes about a certain kind of American morality. —Spielberg, 1999

[Salvador] Dalí is really Norman Rockwell's twin brother kidnapped by Gypsies in babyhood. —Vladimir Nabokov, Pnin, 1957

Rockwell is terrific. It's become too tedious to pretend he isn't. —Schjeldahl, 1999

Rockwell fills his apparently mayonnaise world with dark and disturbing details which he then dares the viewer to acknowledge. —Richard Halpern, cultural historian, 2006

Rockwell's paintings ... are able to induce a kind of hysterical blindness in many viewers, who can't or won't see what is staring them in the face. —Halpern, 2006

I dreamed of Norman Rockwell paintings when I was a child. I thought they were a wonderful fantasyland. Or heaven—if I died, that's where I'd go, to a Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving or Christmas. —Orson Scott Card, Treasure Box, 1996

Right away, I got in trouble with the art department faculty. One day a professor asked us to name our favorite modern artist. I said mine was Norman Rockwell. —Patrick F. McManus, How I Got This Way, 1994

Were they horrific, these heavens? Or were they the stuff I dreamed about? Where you could be caught in a Norman Rockwell world forever. Turkey constantly being brought to a table full of family. —Alice Sebold, The Lovely Bones, 2002

... the Brueghel of the twentieth-century bourgeoisie, the Holbein of Jell-O ads and magazine covers; by common assent, the most American artist of all. —Jerry Adler, art critic, 1993

Rockwell, his style, and even his name have come to embody the very antithesis of what is modern about America in this century. —Ned Rifkin, museum director, 1999

Between the audience and reality, he interposed a vaudeville act of cute exaggeration and folksy shuffles, and it really is impossible not to like him. His success was his failure. —Arthur Danto, art critic, 1986

Art history for snobbish reasons has always been suspicious of artists considered to be popularizers—especially successful artists. —Thomas Hoving, museum director and art writer, 1999

Norman Rockwell's great achievement was ... investing the everyday activities of ordinary people with a sense of historical consequence. —Dave Hickey, art critic, 1999

A vote for Norman Rockwell is a vote for the real America. —Wright Morris, writer, 1957

It is important to keep in mind that a Rockwell cover image was designed and used to sell three things to a newly defined public: the magazine itself, the goods advertised inside the magazine, and perhaps most important, a vision of who we are and how we should be Americans. —Anne Knutson, curator, 1999

Rockwell's art was both a model of excellence and a blueprint for cliché. —Steven Heller, cultural critic, 1999

Rockwell's work may become an indispensible part of art history. The sneering, puritanical condescension with which he was once viewed by serious art lovers can swiftly be turned to pleasure. To enjoy his unique genius, all you have to do is relax. —Robert Rosenblum, art historian, 1999

Rockwell's illustrations achieved their impact because they touched on deep-rooted anxieties. —Henry Adams, art historian, 2002

Widely loved like no other painter in America, yet despised in high-art circles, Rockwell pushed on, into canvases that almost transcend their folksy, crowd-pleasing subjects. —John Updike, writer

[Rockwell] will not live in the history of art, but as a witness to a certain view of America ... he was the right man in the right place at the right time. —John Russell, art critic, 1978

Loving Rockwell is shunning complexity. Embracing him uncritically is the esthetic equivalent of casual Friday. —Jerry Saltz, art critic, 2001

Rockwell, Mr. Sentimentality, is the perfect symbol of our times. —Deborah Solomon, art writer, 1999

Rockwell shares with Dickens a luminous devotion to the possibility of domestic kindness and social accord. —Hickey, 1999

Rockwell's world is illuminated by a crisp, clean light that brooks no ambiguity. It is the light of the True Believers. Those of us who value doubt must look elsewhere. —Bob Trotman, artist, 2010

When I was much younger I appreciated his work. I remember getting a book of his for Christmas. Then I went to college and I adopted a different view; he was far too mainstream to be of any substance. I turned back around when I saw his work in person. The skill level is so high. Like him or hate him, he summed up something about the country at the time. He was very American—you would never mistake him for a European genre painter. —Tim Purus, artist, 2010

Norman Rockwell paints the American scene to the delight of millions of us. —Edward R. Murrow, television journalist, 1959

The enormous prices in recent years for what Rockwell's harshest critics deem to be mere illustrations suggest that art collectors are thirsty to mine a "new" ore, which in this case also happens to come with a hefty dose of sentiment and national pride. —Mindy Moak, art dealer, 2010

Rockwell will be ranked among the Old Masters as he is already firmly wedged in humble hearts and minds. —Paul M. Johnson, historian, 1998

To see oneself in Rockwell's paintings is a simple objective. We all identify with family and nation. To immerse oneself in the bare, raw human moment of knowing your aspirations and darkest proclivities ... Rockwell's paintings are, perhaps, one of the greatest creative conceits of twentieth-century narrative painting. —Mark Leach, curator, 2010

The complete collection of opinions on Rockwell can also be found at the American Chronicles exhibit at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

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