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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.

Art is not a sport, it is irrelevent that Rockwell used photos. Darn philistines and there constant need to make everything a sport. Art is not a sport, it is a banana!
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I agree with Ken Jinks. Rockwell was never secretive about his use of photos; why should it bring his talent into question? His style isn't for everyone, and at times in my life I have hated it, but the man's skill is undeniable. Most artists use models and many use photos for reference.

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I think the greater question is whether or not Rockwell's illustrations rise to the level of Art. It is generally accepted that they do, but at the time they were nothing more than extraordinarily effective magazine covers.

Yes, this is a bit of a troll, but I stand by the question.
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I've done that once w/ a photo of my husband that I took. Just outlined the basic shape of his face and then filled in the rest freehand w/ how I wanted it to look :)
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I think all that Edward is saying is that --at the time-- Rockwell's work was considered attractive but disposable (like magazines). A fair point. Much of what we consider art these days was not so well revered at the time of its making. Rockwell, though, is undeniably relevant to America's history and culture.
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Norman Rockwell has in his peculiar way pictured - captured Americana and intimate humanity. He did it in a way that only Norman Rockwell could and did.

Hów he came to his endresult is irrelevant, because what counts for Rockwell is only the endresult in all its minute details and nuances.
I mean- You only have to look at the illustration here to see that- the things that make the painting a typical Rockwell-painting definitely cannot be found all in the photograph that was used as the basis for the endresult.
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In the world of art, this is a non-issue. It is only non-artists who think using reference photographs is somehow cheating. There is SO much more to art than freehand drawing, it is ignorant to conflate them. It is a bit like thinking that it is not proper science unless the scientist is wearing a lab coat and mixing coloured liquids in test-tubes.
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So true Lady Helena.
I use reference photos w/ my artwork all the time and when I first started going out with my husband, he always used to joke that I was cheating :P
ALL artists use references, whether if it's from a photo, a still life, or models. It's how we learn about shapes, lighting, contrasts, textures etc etc.
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Any effort of ones mind to overcome their body to produce something in its external environment is art. The subtleties in the errs of ones body stewed with their own cognitive history imparts a recorded personal mark in the art. From spreadsheets to the Mona Lisa, it is all art. Art is not to be secluded in the hands of individuals of whom we call artists. It is all of human endeavor that is art. We are all artists.
Long live Sigatoka!
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everybody needs to stop being so cuddly about art. all of human endeavor is not art, pooping isn't an art yo, and art isn't some magical thing. it's just painting and stuff. i don't know, why out of all of human activities, people have decided that art is righteous and beyond words. electrical engineering is pretty righteous too. so is cooking. lots of stuff. art amazes those who don't know how to produce it, but it's just like magic tricks, once you practice enough you too can dazzle your friends.
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If someone can urinate on a bit of sheet metal and call it art, then I think that there just *might* be room for Norman's "scribbles" in that loft realm as well.
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I think it's interesting just to look at what he changed between the photo and the painting- the kid is younger, the policeman is leaning in closer, the short order cook is older and thinner, etc, and consider why he made those changes, i.e. is there some way the world of his painting is better than the reality of the photo, or is it just different?
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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...
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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.
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"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."
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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.
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