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Lifelong Learning - Norman Rockwell’s America and Today’s Political Divides

March 1, 2023 at 7:00 to 8:30 p.m. EST
Hosted Virtually by IUAA

Wednesday, March 1

7–8:30 p.m. ET

Virtual class offered via Zoom*

$25 per person


Norman Rockwell’s images—many of them painted for the Saturday Evening Post—colored our understanding of everyday American life across the 20th century. In the years since his 1978 death, Rockwell’s reputation has waxed and waned. Was he a great artist? A mere illustrator? Today, regardless of their differing artistic judgments, most people share an understanding of what’s meant by the phrase “Norman Rockwell’s America”: traditional family life, middle-class striving, unashamed patriotism, and conservative politics.

Participants will re-examine “Rockwell’s America” in light of the events of the last decade. We’ll look at the artist’s work and ask how his depiction of basic civic functions—delivering mail, casting votes, taking the census—applies to our time. Have social, technological, and political changes thrown off the delicate balance of individual liberty and social justice implied by his artwork? Does Norman Rockwell’s America hold a mirror to our past…or might we find in it the key to our future?

Students may wish to browse Rockwell’s illustrations at the Saturday Evening Post online, or to read articles (then and now) assessing his work: Wright Morris, “Norman Rockwell’s America” (Atlantic Monthly Magazine, Dec. 1957); Christopher Benfey, “An American Romantic” (New York Review of Books, Dec. 19, 2013). 

*Please note: this course is a virtual learning opportunity held via the online platform, Zoom. The link needed to participate will be supplied via email prior to the first class session.
About the Instructor:  


Eric Sandweiss is Miller Professor of History and Director of IU’s graduate program in Curatorship.