I’m reading a lot of non-fiction this year and I think I’m learning a lot. I didn’t know Norman Rockwell, for a start. When I first googled his name, before I started reading the book, I realized I had seen some of his illustrations but I didn’t know him or his popularity in the States. Rockwell culture is huge and I was astonished to know that there are even meetings of Rockwell’s models every year, or that there are Rockwell’s dolls; little dolls which represents people from his paintings. It’s unbelievable.
But this book is not about his work in general; it only focuses on the illustrations in which black people appear. For me, this fact was just irrelevant until I read that most of the collections of Rockwell’s work have avoid deliberately including these illustrations; that some people thought he was racist because they had seen only illustrations with white people; or that Rockwell, at the beginning of his career had trouble in including black people in his paintings because the magazines he worked for forbade him to paint black people in the main roles of the paintings. Again, it’s unbelievable.
In Hidden in plain sight, the author takes us to a journey to meet who those “other” people were. Jane Allen Petrick has researched into Rockwell’s paintings and has interviewed his models – the majority of them were kids when they worked for him – who tell us the story of how they ended up being models for the painter and how their experience was (most of the memories include tons of Coca Cola!). I have found interesting that he organized photograph sessions for every painting, asking the models to pose in certain ways that then he would transform into oil paintings.
I know the author’s aim was to show Rockwell’s unknown work to the public, but since this is my first approach to Rockwell’s art, I think this is also a great book to get to know this artist and how he was committed to represent every American person through his paintings.
Finally, I want to show you some of the paintings mentioned in the book:
Glen Canyon Dam
And of course, The problem we all live with
Hidden In Plain Sight was named to Kirkus Review’s Best Books of 2013.