The Photorealism of Norman Rockwell Explained

This week a story at NPR discusses the extent to which Norman Rockwell used photography to capture images of models; he then traced these photographs onto canvas as an early step in the creation of his famous paintings.
Rockwell used photos, taken by a rotating cast of photographers, to make his illustrations... Rockwell never kept it a secret, but for some reason this little fact has been neglected in recent decades. Although he may not have clicked the shutter, Rockwell directed every facet of every composition.

A newly published book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera (Little, Brown and Company, 2009), and an exhibition at the Norman Rockwell Museum provide further insight into this process and offer acknowledgement to the photographers involved in the process.

Those who feel the lack of freehand drawing somehow diminishes Rockwell's status as an artist should be reminded that painters as famous as Vermeer and Caravaggio are thought to have used the camera obscura to compose their works.

NPR link, via Photo District News, via (ovo).  Photo credit Norman Rockwell Museum.

Newest 5
Newest 5 Comments

Much prior to 1900 or so try to find a covincing painting of a galloping horse. There weren't any because nobody knew what one looked like; the human eye wasn't capable of catching all the details. Higher speed photography changed that. Better photographs produced better art.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
"And it's never said that Rockwell "traced" the images. He scaled them up..."

The person who commented on Rockwell's "tracing techniques" was Clemens Kalischer, an artist-photographer who reportedly "assisted Rockwell through the years."
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Only someone utterly unfamiliar with the working methods of illustrators would think this was news. Illustration is an all's-fair affair. You do what you have to in order to get the image you're looking for, including using photo references. And it's never said that Rockwell "traced" the images. He scaled them up, using a grid, as artists have done since the Renaissance.
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
No please no don't go there- Don't go into the "What is Art" discussion.... Because that is a discussion that is about as old as art itself. And all that time over all those millennia's really no definitive conclusion other than that it really is a discussion without end or conclusion has been reached.

...So let us please stick to the produce of mr. Norman Rockwell...
Abusive comment hidden. (Show it anyway.)
Login to comment.

Email This Post to a Friend
"The Photorealism of Norman Rockwell Explained"

Separate multiple emails with a comma. Limit 5.


Success! Your email has been sent!

close window

This website uses cookies.

This website uses cookies to improve user experience. By using this website you consent to all cookies in accordance with our Privacy Policy.

I agree
Learn More