September 28, 2013

The Earliest Rockwell

This charcoal drawing, done when Rockwell was a student of 17, is his earliest surviving work and has never been reproduced until now. (Permanent Collection, The Art Students League of New York)

"Revealingly, his earliest known work portrays an elderly man ministering to a bedridden boy.

The charcoal drawing has never been reproduced until now. Rockwell was 17 years old when he made it, and for years it languished in storage at the Art Students League, which had purchased it from the artist when he was a student there. Consequently, the drawing was spared the fate of innumerable early Rockwells that were lost over the years or destroyed in a disastrous fire that consumed one of his barn-studios in later life.
"Not long ago, I contacted the League to ask if it still owned the drawing and how I could see it; it was arranged that the work would be driven into Manhattan from a New Jersey warehouse. It was incredible to see­—a marvel of precocious draftsmanship and a shockingly macabre work for an artist known for his folksy humor. Rockwell undertook it as a class assignment. Technically, it’s an illustration of a scene from “The Deserted Village,” the 18th-century pastoral poem by Oliver Goldsmith. It takes you into a small, tenebrous, candlelit room where a sick boy lies supine in bed, a sheet pulled up to his chin. A village preacher, shown from the back in his long coat and white wig, kneels at the boy’s side. A grandfather clock looms dramatically in the center of the composition, infusing the scene with a time-is-ticking ominousness. Perhaps taking his cue from Rembrandt, Rockwell is able to extract great pictorial drama from the play of candlelight on the back wall of the room, a glimpse of radiance in the unreachable distance." Inside America'€™s Great Romance With Norman Rockwell | Arts & Culture | Smithsonian Magazine

Posted by gerardvanderleun at September 28, 2013 8:48 PM
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I simply don't get a lot of art, but this was evocative for me. I was surprised to find it was a student assignment by a young Rockwell prior to becoming a renowned artist. Amazing talent.

Posted by: RileyD, nwJ at October 3, 2013 3:46 AM