For a number of decades, graphic artist. Norman Rockwell, sent forth a large quantity of illustrations which seemed— to most Americans and most non-Americans— to capture the essence of the Republic. This was a portrayal (to a great extent emanating from the widely-read periodical, The Saturday Evening Post) involving richly observed vignettes of a population of down-to-earth and buoyant folks.
His was a muse fervently rooted in the sense of a loving extended family as the essence of efficacy. The subject here, a college boy home for the Christmas break, extends its coverage to the priority of know-how in order to thrive materially and thus anchor the gratifications of the American adventure in its pronouncedly domesticated form.

Reverence and gusto for material and emotional bounty.


A recent issue of “Smithsonian,” periodical of the great museum of American achievement, argues that Rockwell flooded the world with stolid and nuts and bolts souls because he was an unstable runt and longed for the charms of “manly” accomplishments. While not going so far as to declaring he was a closet gay, the article relishes exposing another dimension in the shadows cast by all that wholesome competence.

A cover for Popular Science; and the subject, “Perpetual Motion,” helps cast light upon a wider, more recent context of the American Dream, one that introduces factors more compelling than wimpy fantasizing.
The “normality” of Rockwell’s output is endowed with abnormally acute elicitation (by graphic design so incisive that it stops you dead in your tracks) of goodwill to the point of quite uncanny resonance. Here, from “Red Cross Magazine” (1918), a vignette of service that evokes frailties not to be ashamed of.

Those evocative powers do, I think, very much speak to “perpetual motion.” And in that, Rockwell’s paeans to middling common sense subscribe, in their own very cautious ways, to the WOW factors of this century’s very different America  and world.

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