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Norman Rockwell controversy

A recent article in the Globe's Ideas section explored the claims made in a new book, by literary critic Richard Halpern, that Norman Rockwell may have included sexual imagery in his paintings. On a message board, Globe readers argued both sides of the case.

It takes a lot to get me to interrupt my Sunday reading of the Globe, but the article about Norman Rockwell did it. What kind of pervert looks at a perfectly innocent painting of a young girl and sees a sexual image? I think someone should keep an eye on this guy.


I think Richard Halpern is the ``dirty old man." He sounds like a seventh-grader who interprets every other word as having a sexual connotation!


Not everything has sexual undertones. I think it's a mistake to look at everything through 21st-century eyes and mentality. Sometimes a painting is just a painting, not a vision into some dark soul.

-- JC126

Rockwell's paintings were timely and very well done, and his subjects were of the highest standard. Another example of how our ``great liberal" schools are screwing up the thoughts of the world.


Art is up to the beholder, not the critic. The critics get remunerated even when they are wrong, just like the weather person. Who do we need, the Rockwells or the intellectuals?


I liked the article. As an art professor, I could see the humor in it. Oftentimes I think art historians are thinking deeper than they should regarding artists' motivations, and sometimes I think the art historian isn't taking the artist seriously enough. But as I read the reactions here, it's [also] true that the minute you mention sex in conjunction with an American icon like Norman Rockwell, you're asking for closed minds to respond.


What a crock, another bunch of malarkey from another wacked-out professor of higher education helping us to understand the inner demons at the root of all of our self-indulging blah blah blah.


I have to agree with Halpern in a small way. There is some innocent sexuality visible in many of Norman Rockwell's paintings. [But] I do not see his work as being dark or even as sexual as Halpern does. We cannot judge Norman Rockwell's paintings using our 2006 sensibilities. He and his paintings were from a place and time where people were not as openly sexual as they are today.


Rockwell's work is uplifting to those who believe there ever was a time and space or culture or community in average or hometown America that was as Rockwell depicts it. The ``heritage" he painted was a fictional artistic form. Rockwell knew that. Remember that most of Rockwell's income was from ``paintings" that were but magazine covers for the Saturday Evening Post. We clutch our idols and our folklore here, not the facts.


Rockwell painted scenes from domestic life. We are human, and sexuality is part of our identities. Rockwell didn't paint pornographic images, he didn't objectify anyone -- he made his artwork more complex by including the real juiciness (albeit in undertones) of what it means to be alive. I think Halpern is getting flack because he's just brave enough to write about what he sees -- and we're all too ashamed to admit that sex isn't dirty. Way to go, Halpern!


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