News / USA

All-American Artist Inspires Lucas, Spielberg

Leading Hollywood filmmakers take a cue from illustrator Norman Rockwell

Multimedia

Audio

Norman Rockwell is one of the best-known American artists of the 20th century.

His illustrations appeared in advertisements, on calendars and most notably on magazine covers.

Norman Rockwell, First Trip to the Beauty Shop, 1972, oil on canvas
Norman Rockwell, First Trip to the Beauty Shop, 1972, oil on canvas

Rockwell died in 1978. Many Americans collect his art, including two of Hollywood's leading filmmakers. A new exhibit at the Smithsonian American Art Museum showcases works from their collections.

Visual storytelling

The man in the soft felt hat, kneeling by the reclining woman and supporting her with an arm wrapped around her shoulders bears a striking resemblance to a certain fictional archaeologist.

Perhaps the creator of Indiana Jones was inspired by what he saw in the painting.  Peach Crop belongs to producer and director George Lucas. It is one of more than 30 works from his collection in the exhibition "Telling Stories." Other works on display belong to director Steven Spielberg.  

"Both Lucas and Spielberg see Rockwell ultimately not just as an illustrator, not just as a maker of pictures, but a teller of visual stories," says Virginia Mecklenburg, curator of the exhibition.

She says Lucas told her that he felt comfortable from his earliest days in the movie business, because "he already knew how to tell a story visually from having looked at Norman Rockwell's covers."

Rockwell did covers for the Saturday Evening Post for nearly 50 years.

Norman Rockwell in his studio with model Hank Bergmans, about 1970.
Norman Rockwell in his studio with model Hank Bergmans, about 1970.

Some of his pictures illustrated stories inside magazines. But even those that didn't do seem to tell a story:  a family laden with packages arrives for Christmas at grandma and grandpa's; a little girl in the beauty shop gets her first haircut; a girl balances on one leg, holding her foot and glowering at a blushing boy, while another young couple dance in the background.

"One of the things that George Lucas loves about Rockwell is what Rockwell tells us about our culture, about our society, and about who we are as people," Mecklenburg says.  She adds that many of the things he sees in Rockwell's pictures remind him of his own childhood in Modesto, California.

"He said that he grew up in the Norman Rockwell world.  Everything you see in Norman Rockwell pictures, he grew up doing and it was part of his life."

George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the set of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Both filmmakers say Norman Rockwell influenced their storytelling.
George Lucas and Steven Spielberg on the set of 'Raiders of the Lost Ark.' Both filmmakers say Norman Rockwell influenced their storytelling.

Rockwell's moral core

Steven Spielberg owns several pictures of Boy Scouts, in part, because he made his first film as a Boy Scout project.  But the curator says, he is also interested in what she calls "the moral core" that can be seen in many of Rockwell's images.  "He also really admires the pictures of the American military.

Spielberg has also collected pictures that remind him of himself, most notably, one titled "And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable."  It shows a man at a typewriter and above his head, taking up more than half of the canvas and appearing in a purple cloud, is frontiersman Daniel Boone, wearing his coonskin cap and carrying his long rifle.

Norman Rockwell, And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable, 1923, oil on canvas
Norman Rockwell, And Daniel Boone Comes to Life on the Underwood Portable, 1923, oil on canvas

"When he is starting to write a movie, [Spielberg] says he just sits there at the typewriter waiting for a thought bubble to emerge over his head that will finally get his fingers dancing across the keys," Meckelenburg says.  "I think it is also a wonderful demonstration of Rockwell's early fascination with the way movies look.  The whole idea looks like a movie screen.  It looks like a film playing out over the writer's head."

Rockwell in Hollywood

Rockwell spent some time in Hollywood in the 1930s. He painted would-be starlets and movie stars like Gary Cooper.

When it came to creating his illustrations, Mecklenburg says, Rockwell approached the job much like a filmmaker.

"When he selected his models, he had them audition to make sure they could do the facial expressions he wanted, that they could act out the body language he wanted for a particular picture," she says.  He also selected props and costumes, staged the scene lit it and photographed it.  He used the photographs later to create his illustrations

Rockwell's attention to detail created images that still tell stories, decades after they were created, much like the films of two of his biggest fans.  The largest collection of Rockwell images is at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.

You May Like

Analyst: Joint-Arab Military Force Poses Perilous Challenge

Although international forces are desperately needed to counter the threat of the Islamic State group, analysts say conflicting alliances could escalate fighting More

Asia’s Middle Class Changes Demand for Wheat Grain Exporters

Changes in tastes and diets are boon for wheat exporters such as Australia and the United States More

S. African Comedian Taking Over Popular TV Show

Mixed-race comedian Trevor Noah, who is loved for his edgy jibes about race and language, is taking the helm from Jon Stewart at The Daily Show in US More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadistsi
X
Greg Flakus
March 30, 2015 6:48 PM
At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video Film Tells Story of Musicians in Mali Threatened by Jihadists

At this year's annual South by Southwest film and music festival in Austin, Texas, some musicians from Mali were on hand to promote a film about how their lives were upturned by jihadists who destroyed ancient treasures in the city of Timbuktu and prohibited anyone from playing music under threat of death. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Austin, some are afraid to return to their hometowns even though the jihadists are no longer in control there.
Video

Video With Coalition Airstrikes, Iraq Entering 'Last Page' of IS Battle

American warplanes joined Iraq's battle against the so-called 'Islamic State' in northern Iraq late Wednesday, as Iraqi ground troops launched a massive assault on Tikrit. Analysts say the offensive could take the coalition a step further towards Mosul, the largest city held by Islamic State forces. Others say it could also deepen already-dangerous sectarian tensions in the region. VOA's Heather Murdock has more from Cairo.
Video

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Tourism is a multi-billion dollar industry in the Philippines. Close to five million foreign visitors traveled there last year, perhaps lured by the country’s tropical beaches. But Jason Strother reports from Manila that the country hopes to entice more travelers to stay indoors and spend money inside new casinos.
Video

Video Civilian Casualties Push Men to Join Rebels in Ukraine

The continued fighting in eastern Ukraine and the shelling of civilian neighborhoods seem to be pushing more men to join the separatist fighters. Many of the new recruits are residents of Ukraine made bitter by new grievances, as well as old. VOA's Patrick Wells reports.
Video

Video Islamic State Prisoners Talk of Curiosity, God, Regret

Islamic State fighter, a prisoner of Kurdish YPG forces, asked his family asking for forgiveness: "I destroyed myself and I destroyed them along with me." The Syrian youth was one of two detainees who spoke to VOA’s Kurdish Service about the path they chose; their names have been changed and identifying details obscured. VOA's Zana Omer reports.
Video

Video Germanwings Findings Raise Issue of Psychological Testing for Pilots

More is being discovered about the co-pilot in the crash of Germanwings Flight 9525 in the French Alps. Investigators say he was hiding a medical condition, raising questions about the mental qualifications of pilots. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.
Video

Video Hi-tech Motorbike Helmet's Goal: Improve Road Safety

In cities with heavily congested traffic, people can get around much faster on a motorcycle than in a car. But a rider who is not sure of his route may have to stop to look at the map or consult a GPS. A Russian start-up company is working to make navigation easier for motorcyclists. Designers at Moscow-based LiveMap are developing a smart helmet with a built-in navigation system, head-mounted display and voice recognition. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video DOJ: Illinois National Guard Soldier Tried to Join ISIS

U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested two suburban Chicago men accused of trying to join ISIS overseas, while also plotting attacks in the United States. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from the Midwest state of Illinois, one of those arrested is a soldier of the Illinois National Guard.
Video

Video New Wheelchair Is Easier to Use, Increases Mobility

Traditional push-rim wheelchairs create a lot of stress for arm, shoulder and neck muscles and joints. A redesigned chair, based on readily available bicycle technology, radically increases mobility while reducing the physical effort. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.

VOA Blogs

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More