I am offering a loving salute to Norman Rockwell (Feb 3, 1894 – Nov 8, 1978) for the power he demonstrated in all his paintings but especially the later ones after he left the Saturday Evening Post. Thank you Mr. Rockwell for being a strong, quiet, and powerful Warrior For Peace who created art that will forever speak to the heart of issues to be addressed for global peace.
“Do unto others…” For most Americans in 1961, the familiar adage really meant, “Do unto others who look like you.” Norman Rockwell, in his painting Golden Rule challenged that hypocrisy and laid the truth of “the other” smack dab in the middle of America’s coffee tables. Golden Rule appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on April 1, 1961.
Also in 1961 widower Norman Rockwell married a third time, to retired Milton Academy English teacher and ardent liberal Mary L. “Molly” Punderson. With her encouragement, in 1963 he ended his 47-year relationship with the Saturday Evening Post and spent the next decade painting for the magazine Look where his work depicted his interests in civil rights.
In January 1964 Rockwell painted The Problem We All Live With depicting six year old Ruby Bridges walking to school in New Orleans on the court-ordered first day of integrated schools (November 14, 1960) for a Look story.
A great departure from his previous sweet depictions of American life is the colour study of his finished painting called Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi). It was for a June 1965 issue of Look and depicts the horrifying image of racism that resulted in the deaths of three Civil Rights workers as they worked to register African American voters.
These are events that Mr. Rockwell immortalized to help guarantee that we will never forget. As we close out Black History month for 2013 let us all do what we can to continue to work towards peace and equality, ensuring barriers are dropped and opportunities are equal for all. As MLK encouraged, judge not by the colour of skin but by the depth of a person’s character.