Norman Rockwell- not only the photograph

The paintings I chose for the discussion are the works of Norman Rockwell. When I first saw Norman Rockwell’s work 10 years ago, I was impressed by the sense of humor and bright details contained in his painting. His painting depicted the daily life and culture of American. He used the projector and took photos of normal people, and then he used those photos to create posters and paintings. Even though people in his paintings look stylistic and comic, the figures in his paintings seldom came from his imaginary but come from “carefully orchestrated” elements that captured by the camera (Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, n.d.). Norman Rockwell used optical techniques to show the image and trace the image projected from the photo (A Story in a Frame— Norman Rockwell’s Techniques,n.d. ) and thus he could precisely record the movement and the emotion of people. However, even though he recorded from the photos, his painting is not only limited to the photograph. He sometimes created the paintings by combining and referencing several photos. He also added his imagination into his art, with more details, figures, and even perspectives, and therefore, his paintings could overcome the limitation of the camera and create scenarios of meaningful content. There is a series of pictures about Norman Rockwell’s painting (Norman Rockwell: Behind the Cameran.d. ).








Reference photo and magazine cover ( Norman Rockwell, 1958)

For example, in the painting Little Girl Observing Lovers on a Train, the referenced photo showed a little girl staring at a man, and there is no couple, the girl’s emotion is not clear, and viewers cannot figure out her feelings. While in his painting, he depicted a girl staring at a couple and she seems curious and confusing. The scenario became much more humorous and dramatic and much more meaningful with details added by the painter. Another painting of Rockwell is The Connoisseur. Initially, I thought this might be a metapainting, and he copied the painting of Jackson Pollock. However, in this painting, he did not copy Pollock’s work but used Pollock’s way of painting creating a similar one. Then, he combined the man in the painting with the abstract painting and finished the final painting (Norman Rockwell Museum, n.d.).







Reference photo and Little Girl Observing Lovers on a Train ( Norman Rockwell,1944)

The Connoisseur ( Norman Rockwell,1961)

In painting, the painter’s emotion and skills are the most important and traditional academic painting genre put great emphasis on painters’ sense of perspective, feelings, and expressions. In the process of 3D to 2D, the technology of precisely copying and recoding could be a tool for assisting painting, but preciseness is not the aim of painting but a way of expressing painters’ idea and feelings. In Norman Rockwell’s painting, he utilized the photograph and projectors for recording people’s movement, emotion, and gestures. The technology of the photograph offered him detailed elements of the painting. However, he created the context of the paintings and without his creation of the meaningful context, his painting cannot express the in depth feeling and ideas of him.


Norman Rockwell Museum (n.d.). Retrieved from:

TIME (n.d.).Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Retrieved from:,29307,1943059_2005737,00.html

Norman Rockwell Museum (n.d.).Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera. Retrieved from:

Norman Rockwell Museum (n.d.).A Story in a Frame— Norman Rockwell’s Techniques. Retrieved from:

Norman Rockwell Magazine Cover 1958 Saturday Evening Post Cover The Runaway Norman Rockwell Ideas. Retrieved from: