Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Illustration vs. "Art"

We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum recently, specifically to see the Howard Pyle exhibit. Surprisingly, it was quite crowded but evidently the throngs were there for the Rockwells. The galleries in the rear of the museum containing the Pyle paintings were almost deserted. This left lots of room and time to intimately savor.

I'm a major fan of Howard Pyle. If historical accuracy is sketchy, dream it up and make us believers. And do a stunning job while you're at it with a maniacal imagination, rule-breaking design and excellent painting skills. So moving to finally see the actual paintings I've drooled over in picture books for years. The Flying Dutchman is over-the-top for diagonal thrusts creating uneasy motion:

Do you think I'm NUTZ about this painting? The Coming of Lancaster. It's almost a religious experience, a pilgrimage of sorts, to see the real brushstrokes. Adore this horse. In the olden days it was called a piebald (think Caravaggio's Conversion of St. Paul) and the depiction of his watch eyes (blue) is perfect. The expression is priceless and it's haughty posture which mimics the rider - magnificent. We have arrived to save you.

And yes, this amazing painting was there as well: The Mermaid. Wisely, a bench had been place before it for those of us who couldn't peel our eyes away:

The art snobs have always looked down their noses at illustrators. Nevertheless, one must be a superior draftsman and accomplished painter to create this kind of imagery. Their drawing skills are phenomenal and I find tremendous inspiration in this traditional genre. Pyle's imagination speaks to me, urging me to step out and express my own inventiveness.

Norman Rockwell, whose very American art is quite rooted in...well...Americana, interprets the joy of commonplace and home. However, he bravely goes out on a limb to express social injustices and causes he believed in at a time when it wasn't cool. This is so powerful...especially in 1964: The Problem We All Live With.

Here's another painting I couldn't pull myself from. The composition is uncanny with cropped faces lining either side of the canvas leading you to the turkey focal point. I was so mesmerized, I forgot to read the gallery card. Is that Rockwell's self-portrait smiling out at us from the lower right? Freedom from Want.
I have great respect for Rockwell. What technical skill and talent! It's just that I resonated to the Pyle's in a way that I find so stimulating.

Let's all go to drawing class...