Norman Rockwell’s Tea Party America Exults in London: Review

Arguably, the two most celebrated U.S. visual artists of the 20th century were not Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock, but Walt Disney and Norman Rockwell.

In his heyday, Rockwell (1894-1978) had what every artist dreams: an audience of millions, instantly, for each new work.

For almost half a century, from 1916 to 1963, Rockwell was the cover artist at “The Saturday Evening Post.” All 323 of the Post covers he produced during those years are hung in a new exhibition, “Norman Rockwell’s America” at the Dulwich Picture Gallery together with an array of his oil paintings and studies.

At the time, this was mass-media stuff. The Post was selling to 3.3 million households at its peak in the 1940s — then the largest magazine circulation in history, according to the exhibition catalog. Rockwell presented an image of the U.S. that’s both instantly recognizable and gloriously unfashionable.

His nation is small town, folksy, cheery, sentimental, middle class, wholesome, family orientated, heterosexual and patriotic. During World War II he produced a number of propaganda posters, including “Freedom From Want” (1943) in which grandparents place an enormous roast turkey on the family table.

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