All you young folks out there have almost certainly never heard of Norman Rockwell, but he was was among the greatest artists of my North American youth, mostly famous for his cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post, which was a weekly directed at us aspiring members of the bourgeoisie. (And as an aside, let me note I went looking at his work online because I was reading an article at QoL which might interest you as well). This is Rockwell’s painting, The Connoisseur. No one knows whether it is a tribute to Jackson Pollock or a parody. But whatever it is, the painting on the wall struck me as possibly the most riveting and appealing abstract painting I have come across so went searching to find out who had painted it, whether it was Pollack or Rockwell or someone else. This then is possibly the most fascinating part of all. From Norman Rockwell made fun of Jackson Pollock by painting the same way.
Called The Connoisseur, the painting is a mix of art criticism (this is what we’re forced to look at now!) and bravado (but I can do it too!). It mixes Jackson Pollock’s trademark drip painting with Rockwell’s trademark illustrations. Pollock, of course, famously painted with the canvas on the floor.
The catch to Rockwell’s painting? He did it the same way.
According to the Norman Rockwell Museum, Rockwell rearranged his entire studio in 1961. He painted the abstract image first, on the floor like Pollock, and then combined the man and Pollock in his final painting.
While we can’t be sure if Rockwell’s Pollock was parody or homage, we do have a hint. He submitted a section of the sample painting to an art exhibition and signed it with a fake Italian signature. He won the contest and earned a similar honorable mention by submitting as Percival at the Berkshire Museum. It sounds more like Banksy than Rockwell, and it shows the satiric side of the master of illustration.
As we get older we can dimly recognise the very different features of the world ahead that we will only see the first few elements of, but which for the young will be the world they grow up in. That world will in turn disappear before them as they too age. And what should strike you as you look at the painting is that even Jackson Pollock is now passé. His time has come, and also gone.