Rockwell, Dunn used art to capture American life

Our son-in-law Pat Garrity carved the Easter turkey with a flourish that would have made Norman Rockwell envious!

Rockwell was an American artist who painted pictures that people would understand. His portrait of a guy cutting up the bird for the awaiting eaters was a classic.

Norman Rockwell was always my favorite artist, but I wrote a book about artist Harvey Dunn who was most famous for his South Dakota prairie paintings. Both of them claimed that they were illustrators.  Rockwell said: "Some people have been kind enough to call me an artist.  I've always called myself an illustrator.  I'm not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life."  

Rockwell painted something like 300 pictures for the "Saturday Evening Post" magazine which also featured Harvey Dunn – but there was a difference.  They both painted their best work in the Eastern section of the U.S. While Rockwell used typical Americans as models, Harvey Dunn didn't dwell on them. Probably that was the difference in Rockwell's work.

Rockwell said about one of his most famous American models: "Eisenhower had about the most expressive face I have ever painted.  Just like an actor's. Very mobile.  When he talked he used all the facial muscles.  He had a great wide mouth that I liked. When he smiled, it was just like the sun came out."  

Another time Rockwell was heard to say: "Some folks think I painted Lincoln from life.  I haven't been around that long. Not quite."

They both rose to their heights in magazines' greatest period.  Rockwell, the younger of the two, was born in New York City on Feb. 3, 1894.  Dunn was born on a South Dakota farm on March 8, 1884.  They both were regarded as foremost painters but Rockwell in his many years of work at his easel is considered more famous and more widely known.

Rockwell was recognized for some of his quotes while Dunn was always in the background.  They both used a dog in their paintings and Rockwell said: "If a picture wasn't going well, I'd put a puppy in it."  

Rockwell died at the age of 84 on Nov. 8, 1978, while Dunn passed away on Oct. 29, 1952 at the age of 68.  

© 2010 Robert F. Karolevitz

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