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By Deborah Solomon
IN an age when Democrats and Republicans are barely on speaking terms, you might not think that decades-old paintings of freckled schoolboys and their loyal mutts could help revive the conversation about what we value as a nation. Yet Norman Rockwell’s cheerful America has lately acquired a startling relevance both inside and outside the art world, in part because it symbolizes an era when connectivity did not require a USB cable.
Rockwell’s paintings are easy to recognize. In the years surrounding World War II his covers for The Saturday Evening Post depicted America as a small-town utopia where people are consistently decent and possess great reserves of fellow-feeling. Doctors spend time with patients whether or not they have health insurance. Students cherish their teachers and remember their birthdays. Citizens at town hall meetings stand up and speak their mind without getting booed or shouted down by gun-toting rageaholics.