Saturday, March 7, 2015

Books about Rockwell

Suppose you are interested in Rockwell.  And suppose that for you, being interested in X generally means (among other things) you need to read a lot of books about X.  If that's your situation, you may head over to and try searching for "Norman Rockwell" books.  Not a bad start, but you'll get a huge pile of listings, many of them for books that are not very good.  So I thought I'd give you some pointers.  I am helpful.

These are the best places to start.

1. My Adventures as An Illustrator, by Norman Rockwell, as told to Tom Rockwell.  Rockwell's autobiography, and a must-have.

2. How I Make a Picture, by Norman Rockwell.  Also published as Rockwell on Rockwell.  This was Rockwell's art class for the Famous Artists School.  It's a step-by-step account of, well, of how he makes a picture.  

3. The Norman Rockwell Album, also by Norman Rockwell.  This is largely a series of short commentaries by Rockwell on some of his pictures.  

4. Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, by Thomas Buechner.  If you buy this, make sure you get the original, 1970 version.  It is a monster.  And the quality of the reproductions is unparalleled,  This is the picture book to get.

Without taking anything away from any other books on Rockwell, these 4 are the essential ones to have.  At the next level--good books that you should buy once you've got the first four in hand--are these:

5. Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, by Arthur Guptill.      

6. Norman Rockwell, by Karal Ann Marling.  Note that Marling has two books on Rockwell, the one in this link, which is a large hardcover published in the 90's by Abrams, and a more recent book published by Taschen.  There's nothing wrong with the newer book (apart from its being a lot smaller), but I prefer the older one.  Marling deserves a great deal of the credit for the critical reappraisal of Rockwell that's been going on...well, basically since she published this book.  

7. Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, by Ron Schick.  Very nice look at Rockwell's process, focusing on how he used photography.  This is a good complement to How I Make a Picture.  

8. The Unknown Rockwell, by Buddy Edgerton and Nan O'Brien.  This is really a memoir by one of Rockwell's next-door neighbors in Arlington, VT.  The Edgerton family is pretty well-known to you, if you've looked at a lot of Rockwell pictures, because generations of them posed for Rockwell.  This book is a nice little glimpse into Rockwell's life.

9. Norman Rockwell, by Laura Claridge.  This is the only real biography of Norman Rockwell.  If you do read it, make sure you read the Edgerton's book, too, for a little balance.  The biography is good, and worth reading--unlike the travesty by Deborah Solomon--but even Claridge puts far too much stress on Rockwell's dark side.  

There are many other books worth reading, including one I've mentioned before: Jane Allen Petrick's Hidden in Plain Sight, and one I have not mentioned before: Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People.  But I have arbitrarily decided to limit my list to ten--and no, these parenthetical mentions don't count!  they're not numbered!  this is my blog!--so I will leave you with one last book.  Namely:

10. Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, by Laurie Norton Moffatt.  I wouldn't suggest this as a summer break pleasure read.  It is a catalog.  If you're thinking you really want to dive into Rockwell, though, you'll want this on your shelf.

As the author of a serious study of Rockwell's philosophical/religious orientation, I can't help but notice that there's nothing else out there like my book.  Interesting.  It's almost like there's this massive, glaring gap in the literature about Rockwell that my book ideally fills. 

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