Art History Favorite Artists Painting 20th Century

Regional Modernism through the eyes of Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell is one of the most recognizable American regionalists, his American branded paintings including his series of four oil paintings from 1943 and their significance in broadening regionalism culture and American art.  Following the disastrous Great Depression, America felt a wave of severe economic difficulty, social change, and political change. American artists, however, maintained a dedication to projecting their personal views of life in America. In 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt delivered one of the most memorable speeches about the four human freedoms.  Norman Rockwell visually interpreted this speech in four paintings, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear, each approximately 45.75 inches × 35.5 inches are now in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.  Few paintings connect with the mass American people, but Rockwell was able to capture the spirit, ruralness, and America’s most valued belief, freedom.

Artist Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) is sometimes referred to as America’s favorite artist. Most Americans have seen at least one, if not more, of the 322 covers he illustrated for the magazine, the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell’s covers on the Post constructed a portrait of America that is nostalgic and helped to create a vision of regional small-town life that was idyllic. Because of this, most also assume that Rockwell was merely a nice guy from his small town USA scenes. Because of his illustrations and paintings, we assume that Norman Rockwell was the outcome of the heartland or at least the farmland, but actually, he was an urban kid from New York City.  Making assumptions about artists based on their work is easy.

Rockwell’s family life was not as endearing as his paintings. Rockwell’s early family life included a mother that was hostile and manipulative. Rockwell’s first wife came about due to his early success as an illustrator who wanted to marry him for his money. But after two decades of unhappiness, she divorced him and committed suicide. In Rockwell’s second marriage they had children, but his second wife was also depressed and killed herself. Rockwell’s third wife was his most successful. The Rockwellian life shown on the canvas proved to be very different than the life he lived.  Rockwell was clinically depressed and undiagnosed until he was married to wife number two. Today, we recognize his childhood as A-D-D, which left untreated develops into a nervous depression in adulthood. 

The art of Norman Rockwell may portray a simple life, but he was a complicated man. Regardless of the personal complications in his life, through his artwork, it is clear that he loved this country and the people in it.  The 1920/30s were tough on his life and for the country.  His art offered an escape to the idealistic America that many Americans sought. In the early part of the twentieth century Rockwell, like other regional artists who had made several trips to Europe, was influenced by the school of Paris and even tried to renew his covers for the Saturday evening post with a more modernist style, but luckily, the editor refused his submissions.  Rockwell received his training as an illustrator, which was a sensible career choice for an artist because he needed to earn a living. The top job for American illustrators of the times was the cover of the Saturday Evening Post, and in 1916, he created the first of 322 covers for the magazine. Today, the Saturday Evening Post is not as popular due to the massive amount of print/online/tv media competition, but its covers of a small-town America are still endearing and show how life has changed.

Rockwell’s patriotism and talent demonstrated how art could change and impact a nation. Rockwell would invent characters who reflected ordinary Americans and place them in situations, and that reflected Rockwell’s idealist America.  Norman Rockwell’s work is similar to a production designer for a film set. His scenes are busy and cluttered with accessories, but he only includes enough information necessary to tell the story he wants you to see. Once the story is presented, mostly by mass media, on the cover of the Post, the viewer can use this information to continue telling the story through their imagination. Comparing Rockwell’s artwork for the Post over the many decades, you can quickly identify the continuity of the look of Rockwell’s small-town America was an idealistic vision he never experienced but willed into existence. These images of America and its people became history, directly through their publication and became one truth in the nation’s collective consciousness. Art critic, Dave Hickey, characterized Rockwell’s work as a “democratic history painting.” The magazine covers from the Saturday Evening Post offer a collective portrait of a young and innocent America going up and becoming strong and finally facing change and diversity.

Some of Rockwell’s most impactful artwork occurred during wartime.  Rockwell often portrayed a romanticized vision of a young, growing country he loved.  Even in the most traumatic era of America, Rockwell would continue to offer an uplifting, positive view of America by creating heroes and a call for Americans made up of a military of ordinary men and women.  This regional call-to-arms helped shape the vision shared by many called the American Dream. 

One everyday American citizen hero created by Rockwell was Willie Gillis. Willie Gillis was a freckle-faced All-American character who served as one of Rockwell’s main cover boys during World War II.  Rockwell gives credit for the name Willie Gillis to his then-wife, Mary, who was inspired by the nursery rhyme Wee Willie Winkie.  Willie would star in eleven covers spanning from joining the military, scenes overseas to finally his college days after the war thanks to the GI bill. 

Although women were rarely depicted in Rockwell’s wartime scenes, the most famous average woman in American history was created by Rockwell in May 1943. Rosie the Riveter (1943) made her debut in households using a pose based on Michelangelo’s Prophet Isaiah from the Sistine ceiling. Clad in overalls, Rosie is the only character in the scene and has a rivet gun casually resting across her lap while she eats her lunch.  Rosie became an icon, not just about strong women, but also about the wartime militarization and participation of ALL American people. 

The last example of regional modernism culture for the building of American ideals that exist today is Rockwell’s interpretation of the four freedoms. The Four Freedoms (19453) was inspired by a speech given to the American people by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in January 1941, in support of England’s struggle against the Nazis. At this time, America was reluctant to enter into another European war, but FDR wanted to tell the Americans what being an American meant and laid out the humanitarian values at stake. Roosevelt said we look forward to a world founded upon four essential freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression everywhere in the world. The second is the freedom of every person to worship God in their way everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which translates into a means of economic understanding. The last freedom is freedom from fear, which shows a universal belief that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world. Despite these highly American thoughts of values and themes by FDR, the concept of the Four Freedoms failed to capture any attention from the media, other politicians,  or even the American public. 

Rockwell, on the other hand, was significantly affected by Roosevelt’s State of the Union speech and thought for months about bringing the freedoms to life.  It would be the Post’s new editor,  Ben Hibbs who would push and encourage Rockwell to complete the project and would publish the Four Freedoms on the cover.  The paintings took nearly seven months to complete but were an immediate success. Published one a month for four months, they helped to re-establish the Post as an important and credible magazine. More importantly, though, the American public would now understand why the fight was important. We fight for those very freedoms most take for granted.  Rockwell’s paintings helped to renew the purchase of war bonds and deepen the patriotic closeness of the people.

Freedom of Speech (1943) shows an ordinary working-class young man, visiting a town hall meeting, saying his piece, and speaking his mind.  He is surrounded by other men and women who are looking at him without judgment but with consideration of what he is saying.  There is a white paper/pamphlet in his pocket that appears to be of some importance to what is being discussed.  Even without knowing the name of the painting, it is easy to relate this work to a cherished American value of the freedom of speech.

Freedom of Worship (1943) is a collection of profile portraits, close-ups of people of all different faces praying and showing devotion to their respective gods. While the Post did not allow for different races to be portrayed on their cover, there is a feeling of diversity through the use of few colors, light, and age of the models.

Freedom from Fear (1943) showed two parents tucking their two children into bed. The father holds the newspaper with headlines of the bombing of London.  The painting shows concerns for the future of the children and the children are most likely symbolic for America.  The painting portrays a belief that a parent will do anything for their children; thus America has no fear in engaging the enemy to win the war.

Freedom from Want (1943), sometimes called Thanksgiving, is still today, the most popular and the most famous. The painting portrays three generations of a family around a table at Thanksgiving. The oldest father is standing at the head of the table as the mother is about to place a large turkey in front of him. The painting is intended to show that despite the difficulties the country was facing, traditional American family values will always remain important. Today, however, while the imagery of the Thanksgiving painting has endured, it has been replicated and reimagined in many pop cultural forms in an attempt to redefine contemporary societal perceptions but continues the iconic representation of American tradition, social customs, and familial interpretations.   

Norman Rockwell’s life is a terrific example of an artist who shifted away from European modernism to embrace subjects of their homeland whether real or imagined. Rockwell and other regionalist painters were able to capture the spirit and character through a figurative narrative, bringing back art-as-storytelling, while being rendered in precise believable detail. American Regionalists painted familiar subjects and situations in ways that would be accessible and accepted by the general public. These American artists, although not organized in defining their style, began to establish a uniquely American style of art.  Norman Rockwell was clearly one of the most popular artists from the the1930s, and into the early 1950s, that sought a national form of realism that would connect with the values of ordinary people throughout America, and he still remains a favorite icon today. 

Rockwell’s Willie Gillis character on cover of the Post magazine.

Rosie the Riveter character on cover of the Post magazine The Four Freedoms. (1943)

Art History Blog Favorite Artists

Queen Joanna the Mad (1877) by Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz

Francisco Pradilla y Ortiz (1848-1921) is sometimes considered a forgotten master artist, yet his biography includes serving as the Director of the Prado Museum, winning numerous international awards, including the French Legion of Honor, and he held the position of the Director of the Spanish Academy in Rome. But he is best remembered for his paintings of the subject Doña Juana La Loca (Joanna the Mad) spurred a new generation of historical painters in Spain.

Pradilla was heavily influenced by artists Ribera, Titian, Velázquez, and El Greco, all of whom are displayed in the Prado Museum permanent collection. To improve his own skills, he would copy the Old Master paintings and had a lifelong study of Greek and Roman texts, in addition to Spanish historical documents which inspired many of his paintings. An avid collector of rare books he also possessed the ability to speak several languages.  In Queen Joanna the Mad (1877), the Spanish artist Francisco Pradilla uses romanticism elements of nature and an emotional scene to render a full realist painting that narrates an important historical event.  The painting illustrates a view into the life of the Spanish Royal Joanna (1479-1555), who was the second daughter of King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. 

Many artists explored the subject of Joanna because, after the death of her husband, Joanna accompanied the body to its place of burial. She refused to sleep or leave the casket and kept vigil over the casket in torrential rain and winds. This, combined with other behaviors deemed as eccentric, estranged her from other royals. She spent the last years of her life in a convent which can be found in other paintings of her life.

WHERE TO FIND IT? This painting is on display at the PRADO Museum in Madrid, Spain.

Blog Childrens Book

Highly Anticipated Book Chippy The Cheetah Rides 545 Miles From San Francisco To Los Angeles Released Today

First-Time Author Gary Graves Embraces the LGBTQ+ Communities Celebrating Diversity and Caring

FULLERTON, Calif. — September 18, 2020 — Today, noted writer Gary Graves released his first children’s book, “Chippy The Cheetah Rides 545 Miles From San Francisco To Los Angeles,” ten years in the making, it tells the story of the young hero Chippy, an adventurous and caring young cheetah who joins the AIDS/LifeCycle ride and learns lessons about helping others. Chippy learns the benefits of being part of a team as well as seeing the rewards of his determination and goals. During the journey, Chippy is faced with challenges such as raising money for charity and riding his bicycle on the road.

Readers will enjoy how Chippy cleverly figures things out and positively solves his challenges. Mr. Graves’ goal is to inspire people who see the personal growth of Chippy, and how the cheetah sees the importance of caring and helping others throughout the ride. Gary Graves tells his readers, “The book is appropriate for everyone and celebrates the goodness of humanity. Deep down we are all the same! Chippy The Cheetah introduces LGBTQ+ themes and hopes to create positive role models for the LGBTQ+ community and those infected with AIDS/HIV. It reminds people that every person can do important things in the world, however big or small.”

Graves added, “I’ve written Chippy The Cheetah as a celebration of my 10-years of riding in and raising money for the AIDS/LifeCycle to combine my love of cycling, cheetahs, and charity. Completing my 10th year participating in the Aids/Lifecycle, even during the ‘stay at home year 2020,’ has been a thrill. I encourage readers, family and friends to support The Aids/Lifecycle, an exciting 545-mile journey by bike from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The charity ride benefits AIDS organizations and provides prevention education and services to those afflicted with AIDS/HIV.”

Mr. Graves is currently a tenured and full-time professor of business management at Fullerton College. He teaches Entrepreneurial Mindset, Principles of E-Commerce, Small Business Management, Principles of Advertising and Creativity Matters! One of his entrepreneurial businesses, Cycle Animals, is a specialty fundraising site that develops cycling clothing and items featuring favorite animals. The net proceeds from purchases are donated to various causes and non-profit organizations. 

“Chippy The Cheetah Rides 545 Miles From San Francisco To Los Angeles” sells in print for $25 and is available online and digital version on Gary Graves can be found on FacebookTwitter:  LinkedIn and Instagram 

For more information go to:

or call (714) 264-8778

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Art Happenings Blog

ART Happening Near Fullerton, CA

MAY 2021

Please support our local ARTS organizations. If you know of any art event not mentioned, please email me at

2021 Fullerton College Student Art Exhibition
Fullerton College
The Fullerton College Art Gallery is proud to present our virtual Student Art Exhibition. Please visit to enjoy our fantastic student artwork created during this year. The exhibition includes 333 artworks from 122 students, virtual galleries, and student art awards. Some artworks are available for purchase.

“Shades of Us”
1201 W. Malvern Ave., Fullerton (714)738-6595

Artist Eloy Torrez explores the ideas of “us” and “we” through his sub-jects. In this exploration, Torrez delves into the personalities and diverse make-up of his painted guests. Guest curated by Jimmy Centeno. April 29-July 1. The gallery is open Monday–Thursday, 12-4 pm. $5/group. Reservations required. Available only for private viewing. AltaMed employees and their parties may have their admission charge waived by showing their employee badge.

“Made in California”
1 Civic Center Cir, Brea (714) 990-7730

Every year, this juried exhibit showcases artwork from all over the state of California and highlights artists in all stages of their careers, and offers them a chance to compete for a number of awards, including the coveted solo show opportunity. “Made in California” is open to the public. There was no opening reception this year. Masks, social distancing, and other safety measures will be required of all staff and visitors. Through June 18. Visitors can learn about future exhibitions and workshops at or by following the gallery on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @breagallery. Open hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 12 pm – 5 pm. For more information, call (714) 990-7731 or visit

321 E. Chapman Ave (1000 Bldg)

The artists in this virtual exhibition address these issues: creating a just food system, honoring the Earth, valuing the work of those producing our food, respecting food sovereignty, and ensuring that everyone has enough. Featuring work by: Jackie Amézquita, Sula Bermúdez-Silverman, Narsiso Martinez, Nikki McClure, Sara Rosenblatt, Chip Thomas. Through May 21. The Gallery is currently closed, however, you may access the show virtually at

Art Instruction Blog Glass Making Ideas

Firing schedules

Below are links to various firing schedule found on the internet:

  1. Fahrenheit Firing Schedules for Thick Projects
  2. System 96 Firing Guide
  3. Patty Gray Dam Molds Firing Schedule
  4. Drop out Firing Schedule