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Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
In Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell's America, author Jane Allen Petrick tells the story of the Rockwell models who were people of color. She also brings to life a Norman Rockwell that the vast majority of people never knew -- a man who saw the world as multi-cultural and was thwarted in every instance of his attempts to portray that world in his art. Petrick interviewed child models, now middle-aged, to get a first-hand account of what it was like to be a Rockwell model and how he affected their lives. This book is, in many respects, an artistic biography of Rockwell, and it chronicles his struggles with and despair at the magazine The Saturday Evening Post, whose conservative editor only allowed blacks in the publication if they were in subservient positions. Rockwell's own ideology was quite progressive, and he came to hate the magazine that created a Rockwell persona so far from the reality of who he was. Petrick concludes her work by citing African-American artists who were greatly influenced by Rockwell's work, who saw those hidden in plain sight.
Jane Allen Petrick's book should be required reading in art history classes. It's that good. It should also be required reading for anyone interested in United States history and the fight for civil rights and progress in our nation. I had no idea who Rockwell was before I read this book and harbored a vague contempt for the man whenever he was mentioned as an American artist. The great cover-up and whitewash Petrick exposes is much too effective. What an inspiring man Rockwell was, and how much I would have liked to have known him. Petrick's work shows him finally in a light Rockwell would have felt at ease with and even delighted in. Hidden in Plain Sight: The Other People in Norman Rockwell's America is an amazing piece of scholarship and very highly recommended.