A Norman Rockwell Double Take
During this time of holiday gatherings and good cheer, no American artist more closely embodies the feel-good family values of the season more than Norman Rockwell. And this winter, there are two ways to enjoy the painter’s work. The first, American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell at Fort Lauderdale’s Museum of Art (through February 7), is a major retrospective of Rockwell’s classic work, from Saturday Evening Post covers to his consciousness-raising images from the 1960s. (It will travel to other cities through 2013.) The exhibition contains works on loan from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, which is now featuring its own new show, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, which provides insight into the artist’s creative process. In order to paint his scenes of classic Americana, Rockwell often posed live models and photographed them, and these snapshots became accidental works of art. Much of the authentic quality of Rockwell’s work comes from the fact that he painted real people, caught in real situations, and the excellent photographic archive on display allows viewers to put human faces to his most beloved images. Read Paul Laster’s review of the two shows on Art Beast.
The Happiest Book in the World
At the start of 2006, New York magazine writer Gretchen Rubin made a mega-resolution to blog about her year of making positive resolutions and keeping them. With her wry writing style and weekly happiness tips, Rubin’s blog became a hit and was syndicated on Slate, Yahoo, the Huffington Post, and Psychology Today. On December 29, Rubin’s book chronicling the project—with the concise title of The Happiness Project: Or, Why I Spent a Year Trying to Sing in the Morning, Clean My Closets, Fight Right, Read Aristotle, and Generally Have More Fun—will be published, but it’s already a bestseller in pre-sales. With good reason—Rubin’s findings are practical and never preachy, and hers is the rare self-help tome that doesn’t feel shameful to read. Come on, get happy.
Holmes for the Holidays
The Christmas Day box-office gauntlet has certainly been thrown down this year. The bubbly chick-flick It’s Complicated is competing with critical darling Up in the Air, which is in turn going head to head with Heath Ledger’s final film, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, which is taking on kiddie-phenom Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakquel. But amid all the noise comes a surefire bet for weekend fun: Guy Ritchie’s new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, starring Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, and Rachel McAdams. The critics have raved about the film so far; the AP’s David Germain wrote, “Ritchie piles on the excess. It serves him well in fashioning a dazzling, detailed version of 1880s London,” while the New Yorker’s David Denby mused, “Downey and Law are terrific together. For me, watching them act is the movie’s principal pleasure.” Granted, it’s not the classic version of the story—Downey’s Holmes is more of an action hero than a brainiac—but it’s enjoyable from start to finish, and a perfect popcorn movie for a wintry afternoon. For more, read Jacob Bernstein’s interview with Guy Ritchie over on Sexy Beast.