EJN Remembrance #12: Norman Rockwell Sunday Morning

Edward G. Nilges, “State of a Portrait of Edward Joseph Nilges as of 19 Sep 2010”, acrylic grisaille on oval canvas, 20 * 60 cm, monochrome reproduction

PROP. XVIII. No one can hate God.

Proof.–The idea of God which is in us is adequate and perfect
(II. xlvi. xlvii.); wherefore, in so far as we contemplate God,
we are active (III. iii.); consequently (III. lix.) there can be
no pain accompanied by the idea of God, in other words (Def. of
the Emotions, vii.), no one can hate God. Q.E.D.

Corollary.–Love towards God cannot be turned into hate.

Note.–It may be objected that, as we understand God as the
cause of all things, we by that very fact regard God as the cause
of pain. But I make answer, that, in so far as we understand the
causes of pain, it to that extent (V. iii.) ceases to be a
passion, that is, it ceases to be pain (III. lix.); therefore,
in so far as we understand God to be the cause of pain, we to
that extent feel pleasure.

PROP. XIX. He, who loves God, cannot endeavour that God should
love him in return.

Proof.–For, if a man should so endeavour, he would desire (V.
xvii. Coroll.) that God, whom he loves, should not be God, and
consequently he would desire to feel pain (III. xix.); which is
absurd (III. xxviii.). Therefore, he who loves God, &c. Q.E.D.


The grisaille is finished. The shirt shall be somewhat scumbly, unfinished, and emergent from an Anselm Kiefer like wasteland at the very bottom in the manner of 1940s airbrush-retouched photos.

The uniform shall be OD (olive drab) for this was the winter dress uniform standard in 1944.

No medals, service badges, not even the Follow Me insignia, since this isn’t a military painting and specialists in military art would easily find fault, and, finding fault, misunderstand.

The gaze. In the Camp Shelby photograph, Ed was humorously practising his warrior’s gaze but here of course in Italy he means it.

The basement of my grandparents home. Lead soldiers and a kit for making more from Germany. Jack’s chemistry set and careful, precise notebook. Boys thundering up and down three flights of stairs.

No teenager culture apart from Judge and Andy Hardy. Schoolwork, sports and dinner at set times.

Booze. Club cars on trains served by grinning black men. The construction of adulthood by alcohol and tobacco.

People had a solidity despite the primitive injustice of it all. Going back East from Minnesota was a statement. Take a look at Norman Rockwell’s family tree.

The romantic varmints (cowboy and mountain man) on the left side of the family tree were the Democrats in 1940. The respectable folk on the right still considered themselves Union and Grand Army of the Republic in sympathy but refused to acknowledge apartheid.

Norman Rockwell, of course, more complicated and intelligent an artist than seems: but he was IMO permanently stunted by having to illustrate on deadline for the Saturday Evening Post.

His Sunday Morning is real genre…especially in the way that the boy looks towards his Dad with emulate envy, clearly not fully willing to be feminized and tamed. Wonderful handling of light.

The difficulty: finding a new relationship, a new orientation-with-respect-to, other paintings. Not a smooth and snide pastiche of an existing image such as collectors want to show that they share the same sophistication as the artist, to buy that which they gave up in order to have the money to … buy. The clumsiness is mine:

… this Thing of darkenesse, I
Acknowledge mine.

Shakespeare, the Tempest

Big Family, Zhang Xiaogang

Perhaps as the last chance to put humanism into social practice recedes we’re painting photographs perfectly. I have no such desire.

Owing to the feminization of art in recent years, the only fully legitimate humanism is insurrectionary feminism. Anything else is to be a part of some mob in cyberspace, or the target of such mobs. Sucks. But I find it amusing to continue to paint.


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