Tags: rockwell

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Rockwellian

I’m standing in an art gallery, looking at a painting. There’s a lump in my throat and a slight moistness to my eyes.

I’m at a concert, listening to a song. There’s a lump in my throat and a slight moistness to my eyes.

Looking at the painting reminded me of the song.

I was in Washington DC for An Event Apart. The art gallery in question was the Smithsonian American Art Museum. I went along to the Normal Rockwell exhibition that’s currently on show there.

The pictures are from the private collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. They are fitting custodians of Rockwell’s legacy. As filmmakers, they excel at creating works that are somewhat schlocky, manipulative and commercial, all while being undeniably effective. That sums up the work of Norman Rockwell.

Don’t take that as a criticism. I enjoy the transparently manipulative paintings of Rockwell as much as I enjoy the transparently manipulative films of Spielberg.

The collection on display in DC is exceptional. You would need a heart of stone not to smile at some point whilst perusing the paintings.

I’m standing in an art gallery, looking at a painting.

The painting is called Good Boy (Little Orphan at the Train). Every face in the picture tells its own story. A nun stands on a train platform, a little boy in her hands. Also on the platform, a well-to-do woman waits with some trepidation to take the boy. From the windows of the train’s carriage, more young children look on expectantly.

Good Boy (Little Orphan at the Train) by Norman Rockwell

It’s a scene from a social experiment: the orphan trains:

The orphan trains ran between 1854 and 1929, relocating an estimated 200,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children. At the time the orphan train movement began, it was estimated that 30,000 vagrant children were living on the streets of New York City.

They would typically arrive in a town where local community leaders had assembled interested townspeople. The townspeople would inspect the children and after brief interviews with the ones they wanted, take them home. After a trial period, some children became indentured servants to their host families, while most were adopted, formally or informally, as family members.

I’m at a concert, listening to a song.

I hadn’t heard of the orphan trains until I went to see Jim Roll playing a concert upstairs in The Prince Albert pub in Brighton. He spoke about his own grandfather, who was one of the orphans who travelled on a train from New York. Although he found a home with foster parents, his place in the family was never assured.

The song is called Eddie Rode The Orphan Train and it was later covered by Jason Ringenberg of Jason And The Scorchers fame.

Eddie Rode The Orphan Train by Jim Roll on Huffduffer

Eddie rode the orphan train from Soho down to Arkansas and every stop along the way they promised him a rubber ball.

Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg runs from June 2nd until January 2nd at the American Art Museum.

The album Inhabiting The Ball by Jim Roll is available from Amazon.

There’s a lump in my throat and a slight moistness to my eyes.