NormanRockwell and His/My/ Our View on Narrative Art
Thedefinition of art according to Georges Braque rests in theunexplainable such that art illustrates something that one cannotexplain (Gayford and Wright 564). The explanation sees art as anexpression of imaginative, indefinable, and inexplicable elements.Personally, I do not agree with this assertion entirely because Ibelieve that art can be explained. There are many different forms ofart in the world that defy the conventional definition or explanationof art and an indefinite definition like the one suggested by Braqueis more appropriate in the modern days. My understanding of art isthat it is a medium of communication that an artist can use to tell astory, express their feelings on various subjects, educate the publicor celebrate and appreciate an individual or a certain element. Inother words, art is simply a communication tool. The fact that anartist can successfully tell a story through a piece of art shows theversatility of art as an appropriate tool of communication.
So,what is narrative art?
Mylimited understanding of narrative art cannot allow me to give acomprehensive explanation of the meaning of narrative art. I havecome to ascertain that most pieces of art have a story behind thembut of course, not everyone will know what the story is, and only afew people who can feel the art and can see the art through theirsoul know the story is in the art. The most common art is narrativeart, which tells a story through every detail in a painting.According to Lucas Museum of Narrative Art (Par 2), narrative art isthe simplest way to understand. On the other hand, I have alwaysunderstood narrative art as a situation where an artist cannot tell astory by saying it or fails to comprehend how to express theirfeeling to the outside world, so they put all their emotional momentsand thoughts to art. They put all their thoughts in one piece ofpainting and show it to people, especially those who understand artand can relate to that moment. Furthermore, only this group of peoplecan understand what the artists are trying to say through a piece ofpainting.
Principally,Norman Rockwell’s popular painting “After the Prom” is aperfect demonstration of Narrative Art, and I must admit that itsmanner of artistic presentation made it easy for me to understand thestory behind the painting. In the painting, there is a boy and a girldressed in white who seems like they are in a coffee bar after theirprom night. The boy looks very happy when he spends time with hisprom date with a strange “chef” behind the counter who looks likehe smells the corsage on the girl’s hand, along with a worker inhis working clothes on the left side of the picture. The worker looksat the nice, young, adorable couple in a coffee bar and doubtlessthinks what if this nice man takes his date to a coffee shop for alate night hot cup of cocoa. The painting “After the Prom”, meansto bring people back in the day when they all went to prom, the bestnight of their life, where they got to spend time with their datesfancy restaurants and dancing places.
Perhaps,Rockwell tries to make us understand that life is never perfect andthat is why this narrative resonates well with me because I believethat perfect life does not exist. In the painting “After the Prom”,Rockwell wants us to think about our best prom date night of our lifeand the peculiar or complicated aspects that occur during the night.He puts the regular worker on the left, looking at the young highschool couple who have just finished their prom at someplace toremind us of our moment back in the day. The worker on the leftdepicts old age, which shows that we are old now, but we used to bethat kid with the dream of our dream date. Then he put the strange“chef” behind the counter sniffing the corsage to depict thepeculiar occurrences that shape some prom nights a signal that noteveryone has a total perfect prom night of their life. Thus, thepainting highlights an entire prom night and its peculiar occurrencesor happy endings. It is clear from this painting that “Images ofyoung love and courtship pervade Rockwell’s body of work, even fromthe earliest years of his career” (Lucas Museum of Narrative Art12). In this regards, the narrative that shapes Rockwell’s workaligns to love and courtship.
Mostpeople have always viewed narrative art as tired and outdatedespecially after the emergence of the modern art. Narrative art fellout of favor after the emergence of modern art and people began topay little attention to sculptures affiliated to narrative art. Infact, the New York School of art, which preferred a more abstract andmore liberated form of art, branded narrative work as unimaginativeand mediocre in the 1940s. The New York school of art started amovement, which rejected narrative themes that involved literature,religion, and history. Norman Rockwell was quick to respond to thiskind of criticism because he was always an advocate of Narrative Artand saw it as illustrative. In his response, Rockwell claimed, "Thecritics say that any proper picture should not tell a story butshould be primarily a series of technical problems of light, shadow,proportion, color, and voids. I say that if you can tell a story inyour picture, and if a reasonable number of people like your work, itis art….I feel that I am doing something when I paint a picturethat appeals to most people" (Lucas Museum of Narrative 12).
However,storytelling and realism through art were renewed in the last decadesof the 20thcentury, and this was attributed to the changing cultural climate.However, this resurgence led to the critical condemnation ofNarrative Art, but the most interesting thing is that the publicstill appreciated Narrative Art despite the fact that artconnoisseurs and critics still favored abstract expressionism. Peoplefavored narrative art as they saw it as appealing especially inconveying a sequence of actions.
Artis supposed to tell a story and highlight important themes that caneducate the society. I will remain a supporter of Narrative Artbecause I believe pictures tell a story in the best way as comparedto words. Art should tell our stories and at the same time teach usmoral lesson as we enjoy the beautiful pieces of art. Moreover,narrative art does not offer stories in a systematic manner thus,people need to have some prior knowledge of the story told. In thisregards, narrative art is not as nonrepresentational andstraightforward as some people have perceived.
Gayford,Martin and Karen Wright. TheGrove Book of Art Writing.New York: Grove Press, 1998. Print.
LucasMuseum of Narrative Art. CelebratingNarrative Art through the ages.Web. Accessed on 23 May 2014 at<http://lucasmuseum.org/collection/narrative-art>