Norman Rockwell Would LOVE Creative Commons
On Saturday, Ryan Somma and I visited the American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell exhibit at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk. The exhibit featured forty-one oil paintings for various clients– the Boy Scouts of America, Look magazine, Kellogg’s, Raybesto brakes and, of course, The Saturday Evening Post (FYI– all 323 of those Saturday Evening Post covers Rockwell is particularly famous for– they were large paintings!).
Throughout the exhibit, you got to read about Rockwell’s process. He used a variety of sources for his inspiration and reference. He made use of live models. He would take still shots (The Norman Rockwell Museum still has several thousand of those photographs). He had an extensive collection of furnishings, costumes and antiques to use as props. And finally, he often referred to the work of others. He had on-hand a 500-volume art library to study. He kept clippings and tear sheets from magazines. He owned prints by other artists. He had librarians do research and gather up historic information for him. When it came time to work, he would pull together bits and pieces from all these sources to produce his paintings.
The American Chronicle exhibit followed the process extensively for Rockwell’s 1965 piece “Murder in Mississippi” (aka “Southern Justice”). In that painting intended for Look magazine, he depicted the murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi. As part of his preparation, he compiled biographies and descriptions of the three victims. He read articles on the murders and the trial. And as a visual inspiration, a 1962 Pulitzer Prize winning photograph by Héctor Rondón Lovera caught his eye.
Creative Commons is “dedicated to making it easier for people to share and build upon the work of others.” We saw that in action last August with the Steampunk Wallpaper Mousewrites created. Like Rockwell, Mousewrites’ derived her work from multiple sources. In this case, three different Creative Commons photos. Mousewrites took the sky from one picture, a railing from another and three men from a third picture to create her artwork:
By the time he died in 1978, Norman Rockwell had had an extremely productive career. He created over 4000 original works. He published covers with The Saturday Evening Post for 47 years. He illustrated over 40 books. He contributed to the annual Boy Scout calendar for a half a century!
If instead of flipping through reference books and magazine clippings or having librarians search through stacked archives or his wife peruse antique stores, Rockwell had the same easy access you and I do to Flickr images….
It would be crazy.
(And I’m sure other technologies wouldn’t hurt either)