‘What’s With the Psychosexually Complicated White Men?’: Questions for Deborah Solomon, Norman Rockwell Biographer
“It so pisses me off.”
On a Friday afternoon earlier this month, Deborah Solomon was reclining on a sofa in her Upper West Side apartment complaining about the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For years, she has been telling the Met to hang one of its Norman Rockwells, a 1943 study for his classic Freedom of Speech, which shows a lone man rising to speak in a crowded room (“It’s a good one!”), but they are not so eager to accommodate her request. “Every time I see Tom Campbell, he runs away from me,” she said, speaking of the museum’s director.
Rockwell and his perky scenes of Boy Scout-approved living have been deeply unfashionable with most curators and critics for decades, but Ms. Solomon makes a valiant case for him in a new biography, American Mirror, just published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She positions him as a progenitor of Pop Art and photorealism and finds quite a bit of darkness in his work and his life. It’s Ms. Solomon’s third book and arrives just as she is returning to work as a practicing art critic (“my spiritual or intellectual home”), on WNYC. It took more than a decade to finish, a stretch prolonged by her not-uncontroversial reign as the “Questions For” columnist at The New York Times Magazine from 2003 to 2011. Read More