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Gopnik's Daily Pic: Rockwell and the art of propaganda

By Blake Gopnik

The latest feed from my morning musings about art and objects at

(Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum)

Norman Rockwell's "Polley Voos Fransay?," a 1917 oil in the collection of George Lucas, on show at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
I'm still grappling with Rockwell, as I think we all need to. Can someone be a genius of our visual culture, and also a terrible artist - or is the distinction incoherent? What is the difference between Rockwell's "Capitalist Realism" and the "Socialist Realism" of his Soviet and Chinese contemporaries? Is propaganda only bad art when it's in the wrong cause?

By Blake Gopnik  | October 22, 2010; 8:31 AM ET
Categories:  Blake Gopnik, Museums  | Tags:  Daily Pic  
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It what sense is Rockwell propaganda? Was the Sat Eve Post a secret CIA organ? Much contemporary art is leftist propaganda. People seem to regard the Che portrait as pop art. Isn't all "message" art propaganda? Would you call Diego Rivera's socialist propaganda bad art? There is indeed Soviet propaganda that is also good art.

But yes, the art is "worse" when the cause is "wrong". This fades with time, as historical propaganda from centuries ago demonstrates. So will we someday have a non-politicized appreciation for 20th Century propaganda art?

Posted by: jejonesdc | October 25, 2010 3:28 PM | Report abuse

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