20th Century Art History's Response Term Paper

Pages: 4 (1374 words)  ·  Bibliography Sources: ≈ 7  ·  File: .docx  ·  Level: College Senior  ·  Topic: Art  (general)

("Edward Hopper," Art Archive, 2005)

Rockwell's nostalgia is often said to be reminiscent of plays such as Thornton Wilder's "Our Town." In contrast, Hopper's paintings have been compared to the realist plays of Ibsen, a writer whom the artist admired, because of their "deliberate, disciplined sparseness, and modern bleakness and simplicity. However, some say they are also full of a different kind of nostalgia than Rockwell, a nostalgia "for the puritan virtues of the American past," a sad nostalgia in contrast to the upbeat nostalgia of Rockwell, or the sad yet forward thinking social criticism of Sternberg's canvas. Though Hopper's compositions are supposedly realist they also make frequent use of covert symbolism, unlike the more blatant realism of Sternberg and Rockwell. Rockwell's television represents the positive aspects of modern technology, however confusing, while Sternberg, the negative -- in Hopper it is less clear if humanity is making the sterile trap of the office, or if technology is creating the sterile affair.

In contrast to the private gaze fixed upon the earlier chroniclers of human responses to technology, Hopper and Sternberg, Norman Rockwell captured the attention of millions of Americans with his 322 Saturday Evening Post covers. Unlike the paintings displayed in galleries and specifically designated artistic spaces, " every week at approximately the same time, millions of households across the country received The Saturday Evening Post and thus "the way most people were introduced to Rockwell images" was in "close up." (Knuston, 18)Download full Download Microsoft Word File
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Term Paper on 20th Century Art History's Response Assignment

A painting like "The Office at Night," instructs the viewer about loneliness and "The Family-Industry and Agriculture" depicts the American farmer, but Rockwell created a sense of intimacy rather than forceful instruction in his "The New Television Set," because Rockwell's "paintings were not meant to be experienced within the formal and controlled environment of a museum." (Knuston 18) One could say that the reason Rockwell seems so conservative to viewers is that they are experienced in isolation, outside of social experiences, unlike museums. "Subscribers could look at a Post cover and feel that they were looking at themselves or their neighbors ... The naughty child, the doctor, the babysitter, the dentist, the grandfather, the mom and dad." (Knuston 18)

In contrast to the large canvases of the social realist Sternberg and the urban realist Hopper, Rockwell's magazine covers were meant to make the gazer and reader feel as if they were about ordinary Americans, like "us." Of course, 'we' are workers on farms and in cities perhaps more like the words Hopper and Sternberg, but Rockwell created more of an optimistic image of normalcy that Americans longed to accept in the post-war cultural climate. Although Rockwell did not portray 'reality' he did portrayed what post-war America wished and willed American and Americans to resemble, in image.

Before one cries Rockwell overmuch it is important to remember, in conclusion, that he was above all a commercial artist, and unlike the critique of technology of Sternberg and Hopper, he was creating art to sell a magazine, a magazine that depended upon advertising revenue, and was not merely designed to instruct and warn viewer and readers "how to make sense of the vast and rapid changes in their new century. The Saturday Evening Post was a consumer's magazine, and although the "Post celebrated traditional, old-fashioned values such as hard work, thrift, and common sense" so popular amongst its reader base (still filled with fresh memories of the war and the Great Depression) The Saturday Evening Post also had to argue, not to offend its advertisers, "that these virtues were crucial to success in a twentieth-century consumer" and strike a balance "between hard work" and the new, supposedly "labor-saving" devices the Post advertised. (Knuston, 18-19)

Works Cited

'Edward Hopper." Art Archive. 2005.


Knuston, Anne. "The Saturday Evening Post." The Norman Rockwell Museum: Educational Materials. Viewpoint. Pp.18-24.


'Office at Night." Art Archive. 2005.


'A Tribute to Harry Sternberg." The San Diego Museum of Art, 2001. http://www.tfaoi.com/aa/4aa/4aa284.htm [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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