As the Arabians Do

Norman Rockwell preparing to enter a mosque

 

 Omar Sharif in Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962). Sharif’s first English-language role was that of Sharif Ali in David Lean’s historical epic. This performance earned him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination and a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture, as well as a shared Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor.

 

Irish actor Peter O’Toole studying for his role as T.E. Lawrence. Photo by Dennis Oulds

 

Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)

 

Robert Pattinson as Lawrence of Arabia in Queen of the Desert (Werner Herzog, 2015), based on the life of British traveller, writer, archaeologist, explorer, cartographer and political officer Gertrude Bell.

 

Candice Bergen and Sean Connery in The Wind and the Lion (John Milius, 1975)

 

Virginia Woolf (far left) and her friends, dressed as Abyssinian dignataries, 1910

 

Truman Capote in Tangier (Morocco)

 

Yves Saint Laurent in Marrakesh

 

Christian Louboutin purchased a villa near the Nile river

 

Cy Twombly in Egypt. Photo by Tatiana Franchetti

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Mr. Apple

Mr. Apple, Norman Rockwell, 1970

 
 

Norman Rockwell’s interpretative painting, measuring 13″ x 17.5”, is a playful rendering of René Magritte‘s famous The Son of Man using a red apple rather than a green one – and with the apple replacing the man’s head rather than just obscuring it as Magritte had painted. Rockwell painted Mr. Apple in June of 1970 at his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

 
 

Typed letter signed “Norman,” dated 11 June 1970 on his personal stationery, in part:

 
 

“… I must tell you that I got the two apples, and I haven’t eaten them, but I have put them in the refrigerator so they will keep bright and shiny…

It will be fun doing such a unique painting …”

 
 

Autograph letter signed on his personal stationery:

 
 

“Dear Mr. Blum – Here it is! I really enjoyed painting Mr. Apple. I sure hope you like it. The painting may still be wet when you get it. But do not varnish it for a couple of months. If you use a fine mastic varnish it will preserve it forever. Cordially, Norman Rockwell.”

The True Christmas

The Nativity Play, Norman Rockwell, 1950s

 
 

So stick up ivy and the bays,
And then restore the heathen ways.
Green will remind you of the spring,
Though this great day denies the thing.
And mortifies the snow,
That very dress your lightness willearth and all
But your wild revels, and loose hall.
Could you wear flowers, and roses strow
Blushing upon your breasts’ warm
Rebuke, and wither at the ill.
The brightness of this day we owe
Not unto music, masque, nor show:
Nor gallant furniture, nor plate;
But to the manger’s mean estate.
His life while here, as well as birth,
Was but a check to pomp and mirth;
And all man’s greatness you may see
Condemned by His humility.
Then leave your open house and noise,
To welcome Him with holy joys,
And the poor shepherd’s watchfulness:
Whom light and hymns from heaven did bless.
What you abound with, cast abroad
To those that want, and ease your load.
Who empties thus, will bring more in;
But riot is both loss and sin.
Dress finely what comes not in sight,
And then you keep your Christmas right.

Henry Vaughan

(1678)

When We Cease To Be Curious

“Commonplaces never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative. We find that it is not a new scene which is needed, but a new viewpoint.”

Norman Rockwell

 
 

The Discovery, Norman Rockwell. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, December 29, 1956

Rockwell painted more than 30 Christmas themed covers for the Post in the course of his career and more than 70 of his most famous works address Christmas themes

From Our Happy Home

Merry Christmas Grandma … We Came in Our New Plymouth!, Norman Rockwell, 1950

 
 

From our happy home
Through the world we roam
One week in all the year,
Making winter spring
With the joy we bring,
For Christmas-tide is here.

Now the eastern star
Shines from afar
To light the poorest home;
Hearts warmer grow,
Gifts freely flow,
For Christmas-tide has come.

Now gay trees rise
Before young eyes,
Abloom with tempting cheer;
Blithe voices sing,
And blithe bells ring,
For Christmas-tide is here.

Oh, happy chime,
Oh, blessed time,
That draws us all so near!
‘Welcome, dear day,’
All creatures say,
For Christmas-tide is here.

Louisa May Alcott

A Soulful Prayer

Illustration by Norman Rockwell for The Literary Digest, November 22, 1919

 
 

THANKSGIVING

For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

For flowers that bloom about our feet;
For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;
For song of bird, and hum of bee;
For all things fair we hear or see,
Father in heaven, we thank Thee!

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Must Be Santa

Mick Jagger

 
 

John Lennon and Yoko Ono

 
 

Jimi Hendrix

 
 

Kurt Cobain and Chris Novaselic

 
 

Alice Cooper

 
 

Iggy Pop. Galleries Lafayette ad campaign

 
 

Ronnie Vannucci Jr.

 
 

Brandon Flowers

 
 

Bruce Springsteen and Clarence Clemons

 
 

Flea

 
 

Bette Midler

 
 

Katy Perry

 
 

Cee Lo Green

 
 

Mariah Carey

 
 

Destiny’s Child

 
 

Elvis Presley

 
 

Bono

 
 

Ian Anderson (lead vocalist of Jethro Tull)

 
 

Bob Dylan. Must Be Santa (Nash Edgerton, 2009)

 
 

Based on a German drinking song, Must Be Santa is structured as a call and response, with the lead singer posing the question of who has a certain feature, with a chorus responding that Santa Claus has said feature. After every other verse, the list of features mentioned up to that point is reiterated, followed by the chorus of “must be Santa” repeated three times and ending with “Santa Claus.”

In November 2009, Bob Dylan covered Brave Combo‘s version of the song in a polka style for his Christmas album, Christmas in the Heart. The New York Daily News described Dylan’s version as such: “It’s sort of unclear if Dylan (…) was aiming to celebrate the holiday, or gently poke fun at the music’s Norman Rockwell-esque simplicity.”

Uneasy Christmas in the Birthplace of Christ

Uneasy Christmas in the Birthplace of Christ (Christmas Eve in Bethlehem), Norman Rockwell. Story illustration for Look, December 29, 1970

 
 

The Basilica of the Nativity, built from 527 to 565 AD, stands where it is claimed Jesus was born. On December 9, 1969, Norman Rockwell decided to go to Bethlehem to paint a Christmas scene. Two weeks later, accompanied by his wife Molly and his photographer, Brad Herzog, he flew to Jerusalem. On Christmas Eve, from the roof of a Bethlehem hotel, he gathered impressions for his painting and directed photography. He was particularly moved by the “sumptuous” presentation of the high priests, cardinals, and bishops as they proceeded to the Basilica. “The high priests carry large crucifixes and banners,” he said, “and wear white and scarlet robes, some of them with their red bishop’s caps. . . . It is indeed a tremendous spectacle and, although I am not a religious man, I was greatly impressed.”

Rockwell’s early version of the rooftop onlookers included “devout native Israeli, Christian, Jewish and Mohammedan.” The picture was a compromise between Rockwell and Look’s art director, who wanted him to omit the Arab and one soldier. But Rockwell kept both soldiers, “They never seem to go singly about the streets of Bethlehem,” he said. Another compromise was made when, at the art director’s request, he removed the tourist family’s souvenirs and guidebook from the painting. Look wanted Rockwell to do portraits of Prime Minister Golda Meir, Jerusalem Mayor Teddy Kollek, and General Moshe Dayan during his five-day stay in Jerusalem. Rockwell met with Meir at her home and with Kollek. Dayan, however, would not meet with him. Rockwell later did a portrait of Mayor Kollek based on photos taken during the visit, but Look decided against the project and never published the portrait.

 
 

Glory to God in the highest and on earth, peace to men and women of good will

Christmas Rush

Christmas Rush (Tired Salesgirl on Christmas Eve). Appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post published December 27, 1947.

 
 

This Norman Rockwell Christmas painting was the 250th overall out of 322 total published Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. Rockwell’s career with the Post spanned 47 years, from his first cover illustration, Boy With Baby Carriage in 1916 to his last, Portrait of John F. Kennedy, in 1963.

This was also the seventh of seven Rockwell painted Saturday Evening Post covers in 1947.

This Christmas picture continued The Post’s long tradition of presenting a Norman Rockwell Christmas painting on its cover.

The Sculptor of Images

Originally published on February 11, 2013

 
 

Self-Portrait. Yousuf Karsh (1908-2002)

 
 

“On the stormy New Year’s Eve of 1925, the liner Versailles reached Halifax from Beirut. After a voyage of twenty-nine days, her most excited passenger in the steerage class must have been a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke little French, and less English. I was that boy.

My first glimpse of the New World on a steely cold, sunny winter day was the Halifax wharf, covered with snow. I could not yet begin to imagine the infinite promise of this new land. For the moment, it was enough to find myself safe, the massacres, torture, and heartbreak of Armenia behind me. I had no money and little schooling, but I had an uncle, my mother’s brother, who was waiting for me and recognized me from a crude family snapshot as I stepped from the gangplank. George Nakash, whom I had not seen before, sponsored me as an immigrant, guaranteed that I would not be a “public charge,” and traveled all the way from his home in Sherbrooke, Quebec, for our meeting — the first of his many great kindnesses.

We went up from the dock to the station in a taxi, the likes of which I had never seen — a sleigh-taxi drawn by horses. The bells on their harnesses never stopped jingling; the bells of the city rang joyously to mark a new year. The sparkling decorations on the windows of shops and houses, the laughing crowds — for me it was an unbelievable fantasy come true. On the two-day journey to my uncle’s home, I marveled at the vast distances. The train stalled in a deep snowdrift; we ran out of food; this situation, at least, was no novelty for me.

I was born in Mardin, Armenia, on December 23, 1908, of Armenian parents. My father could neither read nor write, but had exquisite taste. He traveled to distant lands to buy and sell rare and beautiful things — furniture, rugs, spices. My mother was an educated woman, a rarity in those days, and was extremely well read, particularly in her beloved Bible. Of their three living children, I was the eldest. My brothers Malak and Jamil, today in Canada and the United States, were born in Armenia. My youngest brother, Salim, born later in Aleppo, Syria, alone escaped the persecution soon to reach its climax in our birthplace.

It was the bitterest of ironies that Mardin, whose tiers of rising buildings were said to resemble the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, and whose succulent fruits convinced its inhabitants it was the original Garden of Eden, should have been the scene of the Turkish atrocities against the Armenians in 1915. Cruelty and torture were everywhere; nevertheless, life had to go on — albeit fearfully — all the while. Ruthless and hideous persecution and illness form part of my earliest memories: taking food parcels to two beloved uncles torn from their homes, cast into prison for no reason, and later thrown alive into a well to perish; the severe typhus epidemic in which my sister died, in spite of my mother’s gentle nursing. My recollections of those days comprise a strange mixture of blood and beauty, of persecution and peace.

I remember finding brief solace in my young cousin relating her Thousand and One Nights tales of fantastic ships and voyages and faraway people, and always, solace in the example of my mother, who taught me not to hate, even as the oppression continued.

One day, I returned from school, my forehead bleeding. I had been stoned by Turkish boys who tried to take away my only playthings, a few marbles. “Wait,” I told my mother defiantly, “from now on I am the one who will carry stones.” My mother took me in her arms and said, “My son, they do not know what they are doing. However, if you must retaliate — be sure you miss!”

My mother’s generosity, strength, and hope sustained our family. She took into our home a young Armenian girl, shared our few morsels of food with her, and encouraged her to use her hands instead of her eyes, which had been cruelly mutilated. My mother herself seemed tireless. She had to go every day to the distant mountain spring which was the one source of water for the whole community. Allowed only one small pail, she would wait patiently in line for hours to get enough water for her children. Running water, to me, is still a great blessing.

In 1922, our family was allowed to flee. We had to leave our doors open — with us we took no baggage, only our lives. And we had to flee on foot. During our month-long journey with a Bedouin and Kurdish caravan, which would have taken only two days by the forbidden train, my parents lost every valuable they had managed to save. My father’s last silver coin went to rescue me after I was caught foolishly making a sketch of piled-up human bones and skulls, the last bitter landmark of my country.

In the safety of Aleppo, Syria, my father painstakingly tried to rebuild our lives. Only those who have seen their savings and possessions of a lifetime destroyed can understand how great were the spiritual resources upon which my father must have drawn. Despite the continual struggle, day after day, he somehow found the means to send me to my Uncle Nakash, and to a continent then to me no more than a vague space on a schoolboy’s map.

Uncle Nakash was a photographer of established reputation, still a bachelor when I went to live with him, and a man of generous heart. If my first day at Sherbrooke High School proved a dilemma for the teachers—in what grade did one place a seventeen-year-old Armenian boy who spoke no English, who wanted to be a doctor, and who came armed only with good manners? — the school was for me a haven where I found my first friends. They not only played with me instead of stoning me, but allowed me to keep the marbles I had won. My formal education was over almost before it began, but the warmth of my reception made me love my adopted land.

I roamed the fields and woods around Sherbrooke every weekend with a small camera, one of my uncle’s many gifts. I developed the pictures myself and showed them to him for criticism. I am sure they had no merit, but I was learning, and Uncle Nakash was a valuable and patient critic.

It was with this camera that I scored my first photographic success. I photographed a landscape with children playing and gave it to a classmate as a Christmas gift. Secretly, he entered it in a contest. To my amazement, it won first prize, the then munificent sum of fifty dollars. I gave ten dollars to my friend and happily sent the rest to my parents in Aleppo, the first money I could send to them.

Shortly afterward my uncle arranged my apprenticeship with his friend John H. Garo of Boston, a fellow Armenian, who was recognized as the outstanding portraitist in the eastern states. Garo was a wise counselor; he encouraged me to attend evening classes in art and to study the work of the great masters, especially Rembrandt and Velázquez. Although I never learned to paint, or to make even a fair drawing, I learned about lighting, design, and composition. At the Public Library, which was my other home in Boston, I became a voracious reader in the humanities and began to appreciate the greater dimensions of photography.

My interest lay in the personalities that influenced all our lives, rather than merely in portraiture. Fostered by Garo’s teachings, I was yearning for adventure, to express myself, to experiment in photography. With all my possessions packed in two suitcases, I moved to Ottawa. In the capital of Canada, a crossroads of world travel, I hoped I would have the opportunity to photograph its leading figures and many foreign international visitors.

My life had been enriched by meeting many remarkable personalities on this photographic odyssey, the first of many, to record those men and women who leave their mark on our era. It would set a pattern of working away from my studio. Any room in the world where I could set up my portable lights and camera—from Buckingham Palace to a Zulu kraal, from miniature Zen Buddhist temples in Japan to the splendid Renaissance chambers of the Vatican — would become my studio.”

 
 

Tennessee Williams

 
 

Wystan Hugh Auden

 
 

Albert Camus

 
 

Sir George Bernard Shaw

 
 

Ernest Hemingway

 
 

Vladimir Nabokov

 
 

Sir John Buchan, Governor of Canada

 
 

Jacques Cousteau

 
 

Martin Luther King Jr.

 
 

Muhammad Ali

 
 

Nelson Mandela

 
 

Albert Einstein

 
 

Jackie & John Fitzgerald Kennedy

 
 

Queen Elizabeth II & Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh

 
 

Rainier III Grimaldi, Prince of Monaco & Princess Grace Kelly

 
 

Audrey Hepburn & Mel Ferrer

 
 

Humphrey Bogart

 
 

Lauren Bacall

 
 

Audrey Hepburn

 
 

Grace Kelly

 
 

Anita Ekberg

 
 

Ana Magnani

 
 

Brigitte Bardot

 
 

Jacqueline Lee Bouvier

 
 

Elizabeth Taylor

 
 

Joan Crawford

 
 

Sophia Loren with her son Edoardo

 
 

Martha Graham

 
 

Alberto Giacometti

 
 

Max Ernst

 
 

Alexander Calder

 
 

Isamu Noguchi

 
 

Josef Albers

 
 

Henry Moore

 
 

Man Ray

 
 

Joan Miró

 
 

Andy Warhol

 
 

Georgia O´Keeffe

 
 

Pablo Picasso

 
 

Norman Rockwell

 
 

Walt Disney

 
 

Frank Lloyd Wright

 
 

Mies van der Rohe

 
 

Charles Édouard Jeanneret-Gris (Le Corbusier)

 
 

Alfred Hitchcock

 
 

Christian Dior

Free Fashionable Speech

Freedom of Speech, Norman Rockwell. It was published in the February 20, 1943 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post

 
 

This image is praised for its focus. And the empty bench seat in front of the speaker is perceived as inviting to the viewer. The solid dark background helps the subject to stand out but almost obscures  Norman Rockwell‘s signature. It is a scene of a local town meeting in which one person spoke out in lone dissent but was accorded the floor as a matter of protocol. Once he envisioned this scene to depict freedom of speech, Rockwell decided to use his Vermont neighbors as models for a Four Freedoms series. The painting took four attempts.

 
 

Earlier versions were troubled by the distraction of multiple subjects and the improper placement and perspective of the subject for the message to be clear.

 
 

Gant by Michael Bastian Fall 2013 Menswear

 
 

“Maybe it’s because it was an election year, but I was feeling interested in what it is to be an American,” Michael Bastian said. Swedish parent company or not, Gant is an all-American label (provenance: New Haven, Connecticut) with an all-American designer and, for Fall, an all-American inspiration: Norman Rockwell. Bastian called the collection In Stockbridge, after Rockwell’s Massachusetts hometown, and showed it at New York’s Art Students League, where a young Rockwell studied.

 
 

Painting of model CJ Richards by Yuki at the Art Student’s League in NYC

 
 

Michael Bastian reading the paper next to his collection

 
 

A portrait photo of Michael Bastian by one of the students.

 
 

This comes after collections that saw Bastian channeling Tropicàlia in the Galapagos and skiers in Scandinavia; its ambitions, its designs, and its feeling went far afield. “It had spiraled into a designer collection,” Bastian admitted, which is not what it was intended to be. So he brought it off calendar this season, “more about the clothes and less about the spectacle.” What it amounted to was a kind of Greatest Hits collection, which offered anew some of the easy basics Gant was founded on: chinos, oxford shirts, cashmere sweaters. “Every guy needs a navy blazer and a perfect oxford, and we never do them,” he said. Now he does.

There are new fabrications, of course, and even the odd old-newness of pieces lifted directly from Rockwell’s work, like a hardy suede jacket borrowed from Freedom of Speech. And Bastian being Bastian, there are still bolder color combinations and layering than you’d find in any edition of the Saturday Evening Post.

Norman Rockwell’s Thanksgiving

The Four Freedoms theme was derived from the 1941 State of the Union Address by United States President Franklin Delano Roosevelt delivered to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941. During the speech he identified four essential human rights (Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom From Want and Freedom From Fear) that should be universally protected. Roosevelt’s message was as follows: “In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.”

This series is a cornerstone of a retrospective of the career of Rockwell,who was the most widely known contemporary commercial artist of the mid 20th century, but who failed to achieve critical acclaim commensurate with his popularity. These are perhaps Rockwell’s most well-known works of art, and they were the most widely distributed paintings ever produced by some accounts. At one time they were commonly displayed in post offices, schools, clubs, railroad stations, and a variety of public and semi-public buildings. Critical review of these images, like most of Rockwell’s work, has not been entirely positive. Rockwell’s idyllic and nostalgic approach to regionalism made him a popular illustrator but a lightly regarded fine artist during his lifetime. These paintings generally are viewed with this sentiment. However, he has created a niche in the enduring social fabric with the Freedom from Want image which is emblematic of what is now known as the “Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving.”

 
 

Freedom From Want, Normal Rockwell.  Published in the March 6, 1943, issue of The Saturday Evening Post with a matching essay by Carlos Bulosan as part of the Four Freedoms series.

 
 

Poster Version

 
 

The painting was included as the cover image of the 1946 book Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, written when Rockwell was “at the height of his fame as America’s most popular illustrator.” Although the image was popular in the United States it caused resentment in Europe where the masses were enduring hardship at the time.

Rockwell had sketched the Four Freedoms in charcoal and sought a commission from the Office of War Information, but was denied, “The last war you illustrators did the posters. This war we’re going to use fine artists men, real artists.” However, Saturday Evening Post editor, Ben Hibbs, recognized the potential of the set and encouraged him to produce them right away. Rockwell claimed to have painted the turkey on Thanksgiving Day, and said that unlike Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Worship, this painting was not difficult to execute. He depicted the setting of his own living room with the painting and relied on neighbors for advice as well as critical commentary and their service as his models.

 
 

 In The Walt Disney Company film Lilo & Stitch (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2002) , a montage of images prior to the end credits includes an homage of Freedom from Want featuring the characters of the film

A Time for Greatness and JFK’s Bold Legacy

Portrait of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Norman Rockwell, 1960

 
 

In The Norman Rockwell Album of 1961, the artist recalled his encounters with Kennedy.

It was a cold, misty morning in Hyannis Port. Mr. Kennedy leaned out of an upstairs window in his pajamas and said to go right on into the house, he would be down in a minute.  While Mr. Kennedy ate his breakfast, I selected a room in which to take photographs.  As I posed him, I remarked that I thought a rather dignified, serious pose would be best; his youthful appearance should not be emphasized.  He agreed.  Afterward we walked onto to the breakwater near the house to see his sailboat.  As we were returning to the house, Mr. Kennedy suggested that we try the pose again.  He felt that he had been a little stiff the first time.  We did, and his expression was just what I had wanted—serious, with a certain dignity, but relaxed and pleasant, not hard.

 
 

A time for Greatness, 1964

 
 

The Peace Corps (J.F.K.’s Bold Legacy), 1966

 
 

Rockwell repeated the simple and powerful style used in Freedom of Worship to lend impact to this painting. Knowing his strength lay in communicating ideas and feelings through facial expressions, Rockwell chose to portray faces rather than situations to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the Corps. During his 1960 presidential campaign, John F. Kennedy proposed the idea of a volunteer organization of trained people who would be sent to developing nations in Africa and Asia to assist villagers in educational and agricultural projects. In 1961, the program which Kennedy hoped would promote understanding between nations was officially instated.

Rockwell’s portrait of Kennedy is based on a Jacques Lowe photograph from his book, The Kennedy Years. Former Peace Corps workers posed for most of the figures. “In this sordid world of power struggles, politics and national rivalries the Peace Corps seems to stand almost alone,” wrote Rockwell to art director Allen Hurlburt, when he sent the picture to Look magazine.