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Monday, 09 December 2013


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The first Rockwell says that religion is for daft old birds, who indoctrinate children with it. The first Hooper says that offices are nests of seduction. The Bruegel says that he can't paint children. The second Rockwell puzzles me because I can't make out the significance of the posters above the head of the blond boy: old eyes, presumably. The second Hooper makes me wonder what those two objects on the wall are: another problem of old eyes?

You will stay behind after school, Master DM, and write an essay on Hopper vs. Rockwell!

IMO, like much of Rockwell's work his paintings simply *illustrate* the American society he saw about him. Post-WWII saw the decline of old-fashioned religion as indicated by the re-actions from the two teen-agers - curious because they've never seen anything like it - and the older man to the left who is equally surprised but can't help smiling fondly. Technically, the painting is terrific with the perspective spot on and the clothing creased and wrinkled exactly right. The boy's white shirt with the back of the chair making a strong pattern takes your eyes straight to the centre of the picture. It captures, brilliantly, a moment in time. I'd give $43m if they'd only take my cheque!

As far as Bruegel is concerned, he also cannot paint running men! There's something wrong with that central man's legs!

The second Rockwell, again captures a moment in time. The poster on the back wall is from an old copy of the local paper featuring (I assume) the young marine when he left town to go to war. Judging by his features now, he may be young on the outside but he's very old inside! But just look at the detail inside that garage! That is draughtsmanship of the very highest order. And, as Mr. Hall points out, the young boy sitting attentively listening to the marine's no doubt censored war stories, will be off to Korea in just a few years.

Nighthawks needs no analysis from me, just look and wonder at the mystery of it! Sorry, the image I copied is not very clear but I think those two objects are coffee or water urns. 'The Office' is not entirely successful in my opinion. The uneasy frontier between reality and abstraction which lurks in many of Hopper's paintings doesn't quite come off - perhaps because the 'point of view' is too high up. But again, it's the way that Hopper's people never connect with each other and that leaves it to you, the 'observer outside the picture', to wonder.

On of the things I learnt from the second Rockwell was that many American cars were still straight-fours.

Truly, DM, you are the Hercule Poirot of art appreciation! What I can't quite make out is that bright, almost reflective object just to the right of the marine's left arm.

I have a print of Nighthawks and another one of a lady staring wistfully out of a house on the prairie. The latter was bought off the wall of a Cornish bistro at the end of a particularly successful lunch with the lady I am now married to. So, I'll vote for Hopper!

Aaaaah! BOE, you're such an old romantic!

I really dislike the fact that Rockwell is selling in the millions now. That means he's not the easily-accesible magazine illustrator he once was. The art critics have taken him, after so many years of telling us he was a sentimental nothing. Just the other day, I was reading a critic who claimed the backwards URANT on the window stood for U-RANT, or U R Ant or UN-ART. Don't understand any of that.

The reflective thing next to the marine's arm? Isn't that just a continuation of the window above it? Or am I looking at something else?

Bruegel's children look like dwarves. His style sometimes works though, like here. But the legs are still wrong.

I vote for Hopper too. He just finds something hauntingly beautiful in places that others take for granted, like diners, offices.

The woman in the first Hopper has a great caboose.

BOE, here's a fascinating article on the painting you bought at the bistro.

David, That object looks like a mounted clamp. It reminds me of clamp in the garage next door to my childhood home, where my cousins, uncle and Pop worked on stock cars for racing at a local track. I might be wrong, because I have no mechanical ability whatsoever.

The first Rockwell speaks about teenage rebellion to me - the cigarette smoking and disregard for adult authority. The little boy still defers to adult authority. The Hopper presents a tableau ripe with contradictions, where you can write your own script. The voluptuous secretary with dress that starts with a demure collar and ends with a snug fit, leaving nothing to the imagination. The distance between the man and woman - there again everything could be innocent, but the time of day leaves you wondering. Here again the setting presents possibilities - the office door is open, which would lead one to believe there's nothing to hide, but there again it's night time and everyone else could have gone home, leaving another "open door" to wonder.

On the Breugel - the trees and houses he does better than people, probably should have tried mastering portrait work before trying to capture so much activity as a village celebration with a crowd.

The second Rockwell captures a typical American homecoming, the males, young and old, gathered around in a garage to welcome a returning hometown hero. My great uncle was just such a returning Marine, but he never talked about the war and you can see that reticence in the face of Rockwell's Marine.

Hopper's people seem so coldly disconnected that you want to create connections to humanize them.

Well, I think what we can all agree on is Dom's example of a penetrating piece of art criticism "The woman in the first Hopper has a great caboose" although the Royal Society of Arts might raise an eyebrow! Anyway, thanks, Dom, for that fascinating link - what a story - and still no ending.

Liberty, your last sentence sums his work up: "Hopper's people seem so coldly disconnected that you want to create connections to humanize them."

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