Archive for June 17th, 2013

Norman Rockwell- People Reading Stock ExchangePut this one in the “Even the great ones screw up every once in a while” file. This is a painting from Norman Rockwell  titled  People Reading Stock Exchange for one of his many Saturday Evening Post covers.  There appears to be nothing unique about it at first glance,  just a group of folks hunched around a wall chart that they all  find completely absorbing.  They all seem perfectly normal until you take a closer look and notice that the young man in the red shirt seems different.  You look a bit closer, maybe squint a little  until you realize you don’t need to do that to see his abnormality. Yes, he has three legs. Norman Rockwell- People Reading Stock Exchange detailRockwell apparently didn’t notice this until it was pointed out years later and it proved to be a embarrassing episode for him, especially given his reputation for capturing detail in his work.

Some people have tried to explain it away as some sort of subconscious phallic representation which seems like a stretch to me.  I think it was merely an oversight although an unusual one.   As a casual viewer, it it something that is easy to overlook but I am more amazed that in the process that it simply didn’t register for him that he was creating a most unusual young man. As an artist, it’s reassuring to see someone so meticulous make such an error.

Most artists have at least a handful of such things in their background, pieces with shadows that make no sense in nature or arms that are much too long for any living human.  Most go unnoticed.  The unfortunate thing is that once they are identified, they become the focal point of that painting forever– something once seen cannot be unseen.

I know that I have several paintings with such mistakes, pieces that, without these flaws being pointed out, are strong and full works. Few people, if any, notice these flaws but for me they are the first things my eyes rest upon in the picture. They don’t bother me as I am sure this bothered Rockwell.  I see them as symbols of our humanity, our inherent flawed nature.

We don’t need to point out our flaws.  They’re there for all to see.  We can only hope people accept us, three legs or two or one.  And the three-legged young man here is a refreshing reminder of Rockwell’s humanity.

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: