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Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom From Want’, and Art News of the Week 23 – 30 November 2020

Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want (1943). Photo: Norman Rockwell Museum Collections
Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want (1943). Photo: Norman Rockwell Museum Collections

Within the contemporary art of the 20th century, there are many iconic paintings, and this is the case of Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom From Want’. Zehra Doğan is the winner of the first Carol Rama Award, a Kurdish artist and journalist sentenced in 2017 to three years in prison for alleged “terrorist propaganda”. The Mauritshuis Museum in the Netherlands is the first in the world to be completely digitized in gigapixel format.

3 Things You Might Not Know About Norman Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom From Want’

November 26, 2020 – Via artnet.com

Within the contemporary art of the 20th century, there are many iconic and sometimes parodied paintings. This is the case of Norman Rockwell’s ‘Freedom From Want’. Although Rockwell had considered destroying the famous painting at some point, this work has been transformed over the years into one of the best-known paintings of recent decades.

Freedom From Want’ first appeared in the March 6, 1943 edition of the Saturday Evening Post. It portrays a white, middle-class family sitting around an ornate table. Rockwell used his friends, family, and neighbors in the city of Arlington, Vermont as models for his paintings. He would photograph them in his studio one by one and then paint them together in a complex composition even though they never actually sat together.

There are mixed opinions from critics about this work by Rockwell. Many dismiss it as kitsch, and even Rockwell himself was very critical of it and thought it was “missing a beat”. There are a variety of details to consider in the composition of Freedom From Want. Here are three facts that could change the way we view this work.

1) The military hated him (until they loved him)

The scene in ‘Freedom From Want’ is one of a series of four paintings known as “The Four Freedoms” (The others were “freedom of speech,” “freedom of worship,” and “freedom from fear”). Rockwell produced this series as a response to Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech.

Rockwell wanted the Army to use his work and sent a carbon copy of the “Four Freedoms” to the Office of War Information (OWI), but it was completely rejected. Ben Hibbs, the editor of the Saturday Evening Post, was enthusiastic and the magazine decided to release the copies.

Later the OWI, which had turned Rockwell down a few months earlier, asked to use prints of the paintings in a war bond campaign that would end up collecting more than $132 million in bonds and stamps. Freedom From Want was then reproduced on millions of posters promoting the sale of war bonds that were distributed throughout the country, placed in schools, libraries, and post offices.

Norman Rockwell. Photo: Bettmann

2) Some, even Rockwell, worried that it was too much

Freedom From Want was enthusiastically welcomed by the American public, but in Europe, it was received with bitterness as the population experienced the extreme sufferings of war. Rockwell later reflected self-critically, “Europeans resented that it was not freedom from want, it was overabundance, the table was so full of food”.

Rockwell was concerned about the interpretation that would be given to this series of works. So each image was accompanied by an essay on the corresponding topic. The essay that accompanied “Freedom From Want” was written by Filipino immigrant, novelist, and labor organizer Carlos Bulosan. He wrote about the hardships and violence suffered by Asian immigrants on the West Coast.

This was the beginning of Bulosan’s essay “If you want to know what we are, look at the farms or the hard sidewalks of the city. Usually, you see us working or waiting for work, and you think you know us, but our outward appearance is more ambiguous than our history”.

3) A wink to the history of art

Rockwell who had never pretended to be anything more than an illustrator was actually a great expert of the history of art and the study of composition. The most famous meal in art history, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, should be on his mind when he created ‘Freedom From Want’.

In both works, the central figures are framed by a window, with the lines of perspective converging to focus attention. The folds in the Freedom From Want tablecloth seem to echo those of the tablecloth covering Christ’s table.

At the Last Supper, the Apostles look away from Christ, absorbed in the swirl of their own thoughts and conversations. The same seems to be true in Freedom From Want with the family portrayed. They are engrossed in everything except the turkey being served. As if this artistic and historical echo is trying to turn the turkey into a sacrament.

Kurdish Artist Zehra Doğan Wins Inaugural Carol Rama Award

Zehra Doğan is a Kurdish artist and journalist born on April 14, 1989. In 2017 she was sentenced to almost three years in prison for alleged “terrorist propaganda” due to her news coverage and publications on social media. In addition to sharing a painting of her on social media, that depicted the Turkish ruins. Her painting describes the destruction of the city of Nusaybin in southeast Turkey after a long conflict between the armed Kurdish militia and the Turkish army. After completing her sentence, she was released from Tarsus prison on February 24, 2019.

Zehra Doğan. Photo: t24.com.tr

Zehra is the winner of the first Carol Rama Award. In addition to receiving $2,400, she will collaborate with the award sponsor La Fondazione Sardi per l’Arte, and the Carol Rama Archive Foundation on an exhibition in 2021. Her work will also be on display in early December at the creator of the award, the Turin art fair Artissima.

Zehra made some three hundred works while in prison. She incorporated materials such as herbs, ground spices, scraps of cloth, and cardboard. The works were smuggled out of prison as laundry. Zehra described the process as “a guerrilla strategy”. They were then shown in her first solo exhibition in Turkey, “Not Approved”.

A jury of international curators voted unanimously to award Zehra with the prize, which is named after the self-taught Italian artist Carol Rama. The jury highlighted her provocative approach to gender norms and its inventive use of waste materials and found objects. These include coffee grounds, kale, menstrual blood, and newspapers.

Mauritshuis First Gigapixel Museum in the World

November 24, 2020 – Via artdaily.com

The Mauritshuis Museum in the Netherlands is the first in the world that has been completely digitized in gigapixel format. From November 24th you can experience a visit to the Mauritshuis museum in a new real virtual environment, as well as being able to visit it in person.

Mauritshuis was one of the first museums in the world to launch a Second Canvas application in 2016 to make the collection more accessible from outside the museum. The collaboration between the Mauritshuis and the company behind Second Canvas, Madpixel, took place several years ago. Today, the application is used by more than 75 museums in 16 counties.

Mauritshuis Second Canvas app (tablet)

The Second Canvas tour in gigapixel format makes the Mauritshuis accessible to everyone in the world. Visitors can now visit the rooms of the former city palace and explore the museum in every detail.

The exhibition includes 36 masterpieces, including four Rembrandts, three Jan Steens, all the Vermeers, the Goldfinch by Fabricio, and The Bull by Paulus Pottere. By linking the gigapixel format with the existing Second Canvas application, each brushstroke can be zoomed in.

The Mauritshuis Museum is always looking for new ways to digitally expand the stories of the collection. This virtual tour is a valuable addition for visitors who want to discover the museum from their homes. But also for formats such as digital guided tours and educational activities.

360-degree gigapixel photography

Gigapixel paintings may not be new, but a fully digitized museum in gigapixel format is something completely new. Iñaki Arredondo, Madpixel’s CEO, said that “La Mauritshuis offers the perfect combination of the ability to move quickly, tremendous content and an openness to innovation”. During the first spring closure in 2020, the museum’s images and paintings were taken with 360-degree cameras. As a result of the 360-degree gigapixel photography, online visitors can view Mauritshuis’s collection in extremely high resolution.

The digitizing robot “Madpixel ROB” mapped every centimeter, baseboard and hanging wall of the rooms was. This robot selects the resolution needed for each work of art. For example, the larger the painting, the higher the resolution needed to ensure an optimal millimeter-level zoom experience.

Some paintings offer the option of switching between the photographic image and the infrared images. This allows the viewer to discover the changes the artist made during the painting process. Visitors can find the virtual museum on the Mauritshuis website or through the Mauritshuis Second Canvas application. The application can be downloaded for free from the App Store and Google Play.


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