Last Updated 18 Dec 2022

Norman Rockwell And Ed Ruscha: The Most Prominent American Artists Of The 19th Century

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Norman Rockwell and Ed Ruscha are two of the most prominent American artists of the 19th century. They have contributed immensely to the self-realization of the American art and culture through their diversity and prominence in their artistic movements. Both have produced hundreds of individual works, which have been inspired by the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in the United States. Although there is a time gap, their works embody the contemporary American society and culture. A comparison of the two iconic artists and their works reveals some of the similarities and details about the American context. Ed Rushca is an American artist of the pop art movement. This was an era that brought to light works in the media of painting, printmaking and photography. He was born in 1937 in Omaha, Nebraska, and moved to Los Angeles in 1956 where he still resides (Rapaport).

During his early adulthood, he attended the Chouinard Art Institute where he was exposed to the pop art movement. In 1962 his creations were featured next to some of the great pop art artists such as Andy Warhol, Robert Dowd and Phillip Hefferton in the groundbreaking exhibition. New Painting of Common Objects hosted at the Pasadena Art Museum (Rapaport). After his public début, his art gained mainstream attention and has been showcased in numerous international museum displays due to their distinctly heavy iconography and abstract impressionism.

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Rockwell’s works are easily identified by and cherished by American culture. Rockwell, born in 1894 in New York City, always wanted to be an artist; this motivated him to enroll in art classes at The New York School of Art, and he further evolved his artistic ability at The Art Students League, where he studied with his contemporaries (Norman Rockwell Museum). He became successful early in his life and he set up a studio, which produced art works for magazines such as Life. During his peak years in the 1930s to 1940’s, he produced some of his most notable artworks including the Four Freedoms series. Before his death, he set up a trust to preserve his artistic legacy, The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts which still houses most of his artworks.

A comparison of Rockwell and Ruscha’s artistry and works or art reveal some similarities and variances. One of the similarities was the distinct integration of contemporary issues and the American contemporary obsessions. Rockwell’s paintings were cherished for their ability to touch people of all ages especially during difficult times. Mindful of the bizarre happenings of the world around him during wartime, Rockwell chose to propel messages of hope and optimism. An example is during World War II when he felt challenged to record his understanding of the war and its effects on the American society. He used his findings to incorporate the reactions into his artworks through iconography and imagery in some of his paintings and literary works. Examples are the Four Freedoms posters, which symbolizes the millions lost in the war (Getlein 45). In the series Four Freedoms, he creatively depicts the ideologies of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s January 1941 address to Congress on the freedoms of religion, from want, from fear and of speech. The four aspects were amongst the contemporary issues that affected the American society.

Similarly, to Rockwell's ideology, Ruscha’s’ paintings were based on contemporary issues. This is apparent in most of his artworks owning to his awareness on popular culture. However, his methods were more disjunctive compared to Rockwell’s traditional canvas paining. He used cameras to capture familiar imagery such as specific architectural gems, common motifs within consumer culture, and he converted his pictures to paintings through screening or painting to form art. An example is his 1962 painting Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations.

Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations

He uses the numerous gas stations in the country as a contextual subject tin his artworks. The mushrooming number of stations was due to the economic boom of the1960’s translating to the notion that a common American household must own a car. As the cars increased so did the gas stations, an aspect that Ruscha' notes and uses as the basis of art. Despite the similarities in ideologies, the two artists showcase some dissimilarity when it comes to the visual illustration. Ed Ruscha created art with a pop sensibility. His output comprised of photographic books and tongue-in-cheek photo-collages, paintings, and drawings, which bore messages by placing superficial words and phrases from every day and commercial usage on top of photographic images or fields of color. He also used unconventional materials, such as gun powder and blood, to produce a unique piece. This is showcased in the 1979 painting I Don’t Want No Retro Spective.

The artwork exhibits a bright, powdery surface in bright pink hues which form the background and is symbolic of the California landscape over which the artist distorts by adding the bold, white lettering which emerge from the backdrop to disclose the emotional phrase. On the other hand, Rockwell's work is made up of pictures that tell a story, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars, and books (Rapaport).

Rockwell’s used his witty personality throughout his career and works to create a sense of playfulness in the public’s eye. He filled the American societal niche by providing cheerfulness during times of great discord which was also noted by other artists such as Pablo Picasso who suggested that the purpose of art is to “wash the dust of daily life off our souls” (Rapaport). An example of his Rockwell's artistic ability is showcased in his collection of Images of Childhood in the U.S.A. The prints/paintings artworks denote a world in accord with familial relations, nationalism, confidence, naivety, cheerful fun, and over-all sensation that all is well despite the war that was waging in the world.

Images of Childhood in the U.S.A

His artworks were remarkably realistic and often followed the principles of art such as perceptive, scale and lighting. Again, the exceptionally detailed line-work and the coloration have been accurately characterized, thus providing a greater dynamic influence on the painting.

Norman Rockwell and Ed

Ruscha are two of the most prominent American artists if the 19th century. Their contribution to their artistic movements continues to influence audiences around the world. Through an analysis of their artistry, one is able to understand the ironies and idiosyncrasies of life in the United States and how this contributed in shaping their artistic careers. Again, one is able to isolate some of the similarities and differences in their artworks based on their contexts and visual elements.

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