Norman Rockwell, The Gossips: Painting Using Photographs

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The man at left loses his hat, probably to avoid duplicating his counterpart. All his expressive features: eyes, eyebrows, and mouth are exaggerated—and he gets a hand with a cigar. The man at right, who appears just before the crescendo of the story, is pushed to the extreme. His chin tucks in, his hat tips to the side, he’s gets a bow tie, and his head takes the shape of a light bulb. 

Rockwell also lifts his eyebrows. Hardly any model—except maybe Jim Carrey--can simultaneously drop the jaw, squint the eyes, and lift the eyebrows. It’s not easy; try it! But it looks right, and Rockwell got it in the final. 

Rockwell always wrestled with his conscience over his use of the camera and the projector, which he called “an evil, inartistic, habit-forming, lazy, and vicious machine.” 

But he should have been easier on himself, because he really set a good example to the rest of us about how to use photos intelligently. He rarely forgot his initial conception, and he only used the photos as a starting point. 

As he said in his classic work “Rockwell on Rockwell,” 1949, “I feel that the characters which I produce in this way more nearly express those which I have in my mind and which I am trying to portray.” 

-- Ron Schick, Norman Rockwell Behind the Camera

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