There aren’t many men I would go to New Jersey for, but this was an exception. The Newark Museum was hosting a hero that even Manhattan could not lure. The creator of Rosie the Riveter and the receiver of the Presidental Medal of Freedom had taken sabbatical from Stockbridge Massachusetts, encouraging a rare but rewarding hike over the Hudson.
Norman Rockwell was a man of extraordinary talent, and gave the world not only his artistry but a profound record of life in America for the bigger part of the 20th century. Norman’s covers for the Saturday Post reflected life as it happened, telling delightful stories about everyday life with harmonious optimism. Fishing, flirting, and idealism. But if America saw itself through his eyes, then the picture changed dramatically in the sixties, when social unrest and political realities were poignantly reflected in The Problem We All Live With.
Rockwell created over 4,000 original works in his lifetime – an enormous achievement in itself before even considering his lasting influence on American culture. The little girl accompanied to school by US marshals on the first day of school desegregation in Rockwell’s 1964 painting met Obama at the white house in 2011 as a 56 year old woman.
There was something very Rockwellian about our journey to NJ last Sunday. It was a glorious day, we took our bikes on the train to Newark and then had a doctor’s-bag picnic on the river. There was no dog, and Norman may have painted a much prettier embankment, but I’m sure he would have loved to share the cake…