Norman Rockwell created iconic scenes of American life in the 20th century. As a commercial illustrator, he had to work fast, so I forgive his use of a projector to do his drawings from photographs. As this video notes, he originally worked from life, so I have no doubt he was an amazing draftsman on his own. And he could tell such stories in a single image, something I often strive for.
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The American attorney and art collector John Quinn (April 14, 1870 – July 28, 1924) had a great insight about the avant-garde works he supported in the early decades of the twentieth century. He described his times as “an age of experiment rather than accomplishment.”
Quinn was describing the rise of Modern art. As early as the late 1700s, it was clear Classical art, reiterations of the ancient achievements of the Greeks, Romans, and Renaissance, did not adequately reflect the temper of the times. But what could? Modern artists bravely tried to find out.
It’s the nature of honest experimentation that failure is more common than success. In science a theory is proposed, tests are conducted, and the results are measured and analyzed, compared to the predicted outcome. But how can novel artistic experiences be rated?
Perhaps there is a fundamental test for art. Ultimately, art is a form of spiritual communication. Does the art deliver a sense of communion, connection, the eternal fellowship of humanity in a recognizable form? That would be successful art.
Much of Modern art’s attempts failed to reach those standards. Yet extreme experiments persisted, even as the appreciation dwindled. Like Spinal Tap, Modern art’s appeal became more selective. For some powerful people, that fulfilled an important non-artistic need: a new means for status signaling.
Cy Twombly, Leda and the Swan
Sold for $52 million in 2017
Any old sap could like skillfully created, beautiful, and meaningful art. Elitists had to flip the script, and make embracing the failed experiments, the ugly and obscure, the new standard of rarified taste. The establishment cultivated a culture war to preserve their isolating Mandarin authority.
We are all the poorer for it. For over a century now institutional support has been funneled into art meant not to unite, but to divide. Museums, galleries, and wealthy patrons warped the course of artistic evolution towards alienation, transgression, and incompetence, all the better to shock the bourgeois they despised. One hundred plus years of inverted snobbery was inflicted upon us. We’ll never know what might have been, what aesthetic glories the land of the free could have produced, without that interference.
This Is What The Gentry Class Fills Our Museums With. Sad!
It’s even worse now, in the Postmodern era. As I scan the art world’s official organs, I see nothing but partisan propaganda, leftist activism misidentified as art. These feeble efforts are deader than Lenin in his glass coffin, but all those who aspire to belong to the ruling caste must shuffle past and pay homage.
One of Postmodern Art Star Banksy’s Half Assed Editorial Cartoons Masquerading as Art
Those who we trusted as the caretakers of our culture betrayed us. We’ve had no support for art that reflects the true character of the United States, our might, goodness, and freedom. But the times are changing, and art can lead the way.
Cultural thought leaders look stupid propping up the absurdity they’ve made into the status quo. They’ve got no creditability left to squander. Their institutions are beyond reform. It’s time to start over. It’s a good place to be, because an American’s natural habitat is the frontier.
Remodernism is the latest iteration of the American character: ordinary people working as explorers and inventors, optimistic, self-reliant and productive. The Remodernist artist formulates expressions of personal liberty in pursuit of higher meaning and significance. Remodernism is the pursuit of excellence. We don’t grovel before the current cultural gatekeepers, we want to interact with everyone. We are story tellers. We make a complex art for complex times. We are the swing of the pendulum.
The “art as experiment” analogy really isn’t quite satisfactory, because art is not like science, and conflating the two has been disastrous for our society. Elitists defensively over-intellectualized art, which is most effective as a visceral, soulful experience.
Billy Childish, an English artist who first codified Remodernism with painter Charles Thomson in 1999, described a hands-on strategy for the way forward. “The idea is painting, not having ideas about painting…In many ways I sort of like to look on myself as amateur in everything I do. The amateur does things for love, and belief, not for the mortgage.”
That’s the spirit. Look at what “amateur” politician Donald Trump achieved. He put the experts to shame – or rather, he exposed they were lying about their true goals and intentions.
Just like in our politics, no solutions for art’s crisis of relevance will come out of the corrupted hierarchies of the current professional classes. Fortunately, we don’t need anyone’s permission to create a faithful depiction of who we truly are, in art and politics both. Let’s get on with it.
I don’t fundraise off of my blog. I don’t ask for Patreon or Paypal donations. If you’d like to support the Remodern mission, buy abook. Or a painting.
From Back When Our Own Government Wasn’t the Threat
Norman Rockwell’s “The Four Freedoms”
Back in the Stone Ages of the early 1990s, when I finally settled on Painting as my major at Virginia Commonwealth University, I encountered a curious attitude among the art students.
I was trying to learn to paint realistically. After an initial mandatory assignment, I was the only one in my Basic Painting class who continued to paint from the model which was provided to us. It’s easy to make assumptions about why a single 20ish-year old guy would want to spend hours staring at a nude lady, but trust me, in art school, it’s not like that.
There’s nothing titillating about an 8am class crowded into a dirty, chilly studio with 20 other students, struggling to depict in oils an elbow or knee which looks like it bends the right way. A nude model is an intense technical challenge, one you can make conversation with at least, while learning how to paint.
But VCU prided itself on being a school for so-called advanced art, and most of the students embraced that mentality. Advanced in this case meant Abstract and/or Conceptual art. As in, lots of paint smearing and backwards writing were happening on the canvases around me. There was often a lengthy verbal explanation to go along with the crude efforts, words which seemed to have little to do with what was actually produced. The buzz word salad of art speak utilized in universities is a form of camouflage, like an ink cloud shot by a squid trying to avoid scrutiny.
I kept hearing from the other students a word applied to my efforts to paint a human figure: illustrational. In the Painting department, that was a bad thing. Illustration belonged over in the Commercial Arts department, the place for the sellouts who wanted to use their artistic skills to actually get jobs. In the fine arts, we were told, we were beyond trivialities like accurate representations, traditional techniques, and displays of competent craftsmanship.
I’ve written before on how, in college, I had to learn in opposition to the curriculum I was presented. VCU was a Postmodern school. In what was supposed to be one of the leading art universities in the country, they derided the ability to draw naturalistically as irrelevant. Actual artistic talent was redefined as a handicap.
We were educated in the Postmodern way: to follow trends, while claiming to be groundbreaking; to conform, while posing as a revolutionary; and to justify poor results by using linguistic manipulations. Ultimately, we were encouraged to jump onto a bandwagon of deceit which was being steered towards positions of power.
How wrong they were. At its core, art is a form of communication. The greatest art works offer something for everyone to appreciate. It’s an admirable way to present a vision of the world. Those who went along with the plot to make art into something elitist, obscure and alienating committed a great crime against humanity. This was no accident.
Empire follows art, as the visionary William Blake warned us. The ruin of art was needed to enable the Marxist destruction of Western civilization. The absurdity, abuse, and artifice I witnessed in art school decades ago is now standard operating procedure for our corrupted establishment. I never expected to see our country besieged by such a top-down effort to rule by intimidation, fraud, and misdirection, but here we are.
I don’t give the administrative classes the benefit of the doubt by calling them incompetent. This is willful, deliberate sabotage on their part.
The contrast between our current situation and our heritage is vividly demonstrated by a series of 1943 paintings by the king of illustrators: Norman Rockwell.
The Four Freedoms were drawn from a pre-WWII speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt-who was no real champion for American liberty. However, FDR knew how to make the correct noises to the masses. From Roosevelt’s perspective, the 1941 Four Freedoms State of the Union address may have been some patronizing spin, an escalation towards war, or even a bait and switch for socialistic globalism. There was no mention of them in the context of rights given by God, as acknowledged in America’s founding documents.
The four freedoms concept was ultimately and ironically worked into the charter of that great enabler of tyrants, the United Nations. But the sincere purity of the Four Freedoms at face value inspired Rockwell to paint some of his best known works.
The four freedoms described were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. Rockwell showed slices from American life at the time, where these freedoms were being exercised. The series took him seven months to complete, using neighbors in Vermont as his models. The paintings were published as covers for the weekly Saturday Evening Post in February and March of 1943, and reproduced extensively in the war effort afterwards. Millions of copies of them have been made since.
The Four Freedoms were pictures worth more than a thousand words. While the images remain popular as mainstream American icons decades after the end of World War II, they had a special urgency at the time they were made. They served as a powerful reminder those freedoms were being threatened around the world by the aggressions of communism and fascism.
It could never happen here though, right?
How wrong we were to assume that.
After the end of WWII totalitarians Gramscied their way to seize control of our institutions, intent on stealth conquest. As a result, the Four Freedoms are now being destroyed by our own government at all levels, abetted by fellow travelers embedded in the media, academia, corporations, and the arts. These entities now view our freedoms merely as obstacles to their unaccountable power; they are working in lockstep to wipe out our legacy of liberty.
Those were the Days:
Norman Rockwell “Freedom of Speech” oil on canvas 45.75″ × 35.5″
Look at the man in Freedom of Speech. With his rough hands and flannel shirt, he’s a Deplorable incarnate; a cloth coat Republican, as a certain Vice President once described. Rockwell made a point to show how respectfully the suits around the working class guy are listening, in the midst of some kind of town hall situation.
No more of that for us. The Tea Party taught the pols to avoid engaging with their constituents in an actual open forum. The establishment doesn’t want to be called out on their lies, or to be held accountable for their BS. Now we can’t even speak our minds in the new town square of the internet. Corrupt politicians have outsourced censorship to the colluding forces of Big Tech.
The elites needed to smother the national pride, opportunities, and accomplishments which were surging after the election of 2016. So In 2020, along came the too-conveniently timed and coordinated Woo Hoo flu, a special delivery from the Country Which Must Not Be Named. The Overblown Outbreak was rapidly deployed as an excuse to strip us of our rights. Yet another form of stealth conquest; a major battle in the Invisible War.
Faith of Our Fathers:
Norman Rockwell “Freedom of Worship” oil on canvas 46″ × 35.5″
Freedom of Worship? Forget about it. You can’t go to church, per government proclamation. But you can still go to Walmart.
The Land of Plenty:
Norman Rockwell “Freedom from Want” oil on canvas 45.75″ × 35.5″
Freedom from Want? Nope. You must shutter your business because you are not Walmart. True, in 2020 having your livelihood ruined granted you more time to search empty store shelves for toilet paper and other necessities. I remember being not able to find salt, of all things.
The pretender puppet’s policies are only going to make things worse, so get prepared now.
Norman Rockwell “Freedom from Fear” 45.7″ × 35″
But this all hinges on freedom from fear. We needed to lose this freedom before all the other freedom losses would happen. Courageous people frighten the elites, so the message broadcast throughout our society now is all fear, all the time. Don’t question the authorities. Don’t speak out. Shelter in place. Mask. Inject yourself with this not-at-all-suspicious substance. Above all, obey – or else.
Even back in the day, the elite establishment sneered at an artist who could connect with the deplorable masses. “…you have to put Rockwell down, down below the rank of minor artist. He chose not to be serious,” proclaimed Clement Greenberg, the most influential critic of the mid-twentieth century. A Marxist admirer of the Frankfurt School, Greenberg defined Rockwell and the Americans who appreciated him as Kitsch: dumb, cheap, and tasteless. Elite attitudes have only gotten worse since then.
But when I look at these images, I feel a stirring which is deeper than propaganda. They move me as only real art can. I believe in the messages of stability, concord, abundance, and faith The Four Freedoms celebrates. They inspire me to want to live up to those ideals. That inspiration becomes a call to action.
That’s why the establishment was wise to go scorched earth on the arts before they rolled out their more pragmatic forms of tyranny. Art is dangerous to the status quo – especially when that status quo is based on delusions and deceptions. Art reminds us we can do better.
In articles leading up to the Big Lie, I used to talk about an impending extinction level event for our republic. Well, here we are on the other side of it. A republic without law is not a republic at all. But we citizens are still here, and we know what was done, and why. Now what?
First, we free ourselves from fear. Nothing else can happen until that does.
The world needs more artists who cherish freedom, and are not afraid to show it. Seeing the four freedoms in action in art could inspire countless others to embody the same freedoms in their own lives.