Wednesday, July 30, 2008


Washing one's hands of the guilt of others is a way of sharing guilt so far as it encourages in others a vicious way of of action. Non-resistance to evil, which takes the form of paying no attention to it, is a way of promoting it. The desire of an individual to keep his own conscience stainless, by standing aloof from badness, may be a sure means of causing evil and thus of creating personal responsibility for it. Yet there are circumstances in which passive resistance may be the most effective form of nullification of wrong action, or in which heaping coals of fire on the evil-doer may be the most effective way of transforming conduct. To sentimentalize over a 'forgive' because of a glow of to incur liability for criminals.
Courses of action which put the blame exclusively on a person as if his evil will were the sole cause of wrong-doing and those which condone offense on account of the share of social conditions in producing bad disposition, are equally ways of making an unreal separation of man from his surroundings, mind from the world. Causes for an act always exist, but causes are not excuses. Questions of causation are physical, not moral except when they concern future consequences. It is as causes of future actions that excuses and accusations alike must be considered. At present we give way to resentful passion, and then rationalize our surrender by by calling it a vindication of justice. Our entire tradition regarding punitive justice tends to prevent recognition of social partnership in producing crime.
By killing an evil doer or shutting him up behind stone walls, we are enabled to forget both him and our part in creating him. Society excuses itself, by laying the blame on the criminal; he retorts by putting the blame on bad early surroundings, the temptation of others, lack of opportunities, and the persecutions of officers of the law. Both are right, except in the wholesale character of their recriminations. But the effect on both sides is to throw the whole matter back into antecedent causation, a method which refuses to bring the matter to truly moral judgment. For morals has to do with acts still within our control, acts still to be performed. No amount of guilt on the part of the evil-doer absolves us from responsibility for the consequences upon him and others of our way of treating him, or from our continuing responsibility for the conditions under which persons develop perverse habits. To content ourselves with pronouncing judgments of merit and demerit without reference to the fact that our judgments are themselves facts which have consequences and that their value depends upon their consequences, is complacently to dodge the moral issue, perhaps even to indulge ourselves in pleasurable passion just as the person we condemn once indulged himself.
To change the working character or will of another we have to alter objective conditions which enter his habits. Our own scheme of judgments, of assigning blame and praises, of awarding punishment and honor, are part of these conditions. In practical life, there are many recognitions of the part played by social factors in generating personal traits. One of them is our habit of making social classifications. We attribute distinctive characteristics to rich and poor, slum dweller and captain of industry, rustic and suburbanite, officials, politicians, professors, to members of races, sets and parties. When we generalize this perception and act upon it intelligently, we are committed by it to recognize that we change character from worse to better only by changing conditions.....among which, one more, are our own ways of dealing with the one we judge. We cannot change habit directly; that notion is magic. We may desire abolition of war, industrial justice, greater equality of opportunity for all. But no amount of preaching good will or the golden rule or cultivation of sentiments of love and equity will accomplish the results. There must be change in objective arrangements and institutions. We must work on the environment not merely on the heart of men. To think otherwise is to suppose that flowers can be raised in a desert or motor cars run in a jungle. Both things can happen and without a miracle. But only by first changing the jungle and desert.

John Dewey, 'Habits and Will, Human Nature and Conduct, An Introduction to Social Psychology'.

Saturday, July 26, 2008


There is no miracle in the fact that if a child learns any language, he learns the language that those about him speak and teach, especially since his ability to speak that language is a precondition of his entering into effective connection with them, making wants known and getting them satisfied. Fond parents and relatives frequently pick up a few of the child's spontaneous modes of speech and for a time at least they are portions of the speech of that groups. But the ratio which such words bear to the total vocabulary in use gives a fair measure of the part played by purely individual habit in forming custom, in comparison with the part played by custom in forming individual habits.
Each person is born an infant, and every infant is subject from the first breath he draws and the first cry he utters to the attentions, and demands of others. These others are not just persons in general with minds in general. They are being with habits, and beings who upon the whole esteem the habits the have, if for no other reason than that, having diem, their imagination is thereby limited. The family into which one is born is a family in a village or city which interacts with other more or less integrated systems of activity, and which includes a diversity of groupings within itself, say, political parties, clubs, cliques, partnerships, trade-unions, corporations, etc.
For the plasticity of the young presents a temptation to those having greater experience and hence greater power which they naturally resist. It seems putty to be molded according to current designs, That plasticity also means power to change prevailing custom is ignored. Docility is looked upon not as ability to learn whatever the world has to teach, but as subjection to those instructions of others which reflect their current habits. To be truly docile is to be eager to learn all the lessons of active , inquiring, expanding experience. The inert, stupid quality of current customs perverts learning into a willingness to follow where others point the way, into conformity, constriction, surrender of skepticism and experiment. When we think of the docility of the young we first think of the stocks of information adults wish to impose and the ways of acting they want to reproduce. Then we think of of the insolent coercions, the insinuating briberies, the pedagogic solemnities by which the freshness of the youth can be faded and its vivid curiosities dulled. Education becomes the art of taking advantage of the helplessness of the young. The forming of habits becomes a guarantee for the maintenance of hedges of custom. The habits of the growing person are jealously kept within the limit of adult customs. The delightful originality of the child is tamed. Worship of institutions and personages lacking in imaginative foresight, versatile observation and liberal thought, is enforced. Very early in life, sets of mind are formed without attentive thought, and these sets, persist and control the mature mind. The child learns to avoid the shock of unpleasant disagreement, to find the easy way out, to appear to confirm to customs, which are wholly mysterious to him in order to get his way, that is to display some natural impulse without exciting the unfavorable notice of those in authority. Adults distrust the intelligence which a child has while making upon demands for a kind of conduct that requires a high order of intelligence, if it is to be intelligent at all.
Habit and impulse may war with each other, but it is a combat between the habits of adults and the impulses of the young, and not, as with the adult, a civil warfare whereby personality is rent asunder. Our usual measure for the 'goodness' of children is the amount of trouble they make for grownups, which means of course the amount they deviate from adult habits and expectations. Yet by way of expiation we envy children their love of new experiences, their intentness in extracting the last drop of significance from each situation, their vital seriousness in things that to us are outworn.
While childhood is the conspicuous proof of the renewing of habit rendered possible by impulse; the latter never wholly ceases to play its refreshing role in adult life. If it did, life would petrify, society stagnate. Instinctive reactions are sometimes too intense to be woven into a smooth pattern of habits.
We have already noted how original plasticity is warped and docility is taken mean advantage of. It has been used to signify not capacity to learn literally and generously, but willingness to learn the customs of adult associates, ability to learn just those special things which those having power and authority wish to teach. Original modifiability has not been given a fair chance to act as a trustee for a better human life.

John Dewey, 'Habits and Will, Human Nature and Conduct, An Introduction to Social Philosophy'.

Friday, July 25, 2008


Tragedy befalls only the morally virtuous who are already on the way toward making good lives for themselves. It does not occur in the lives of fools or knaves, villains or criminals. They have ruined their own lives. There is nothing left for misfortune to ruin.
As almost everyone is subject to the occurrence of tragedy in their lives, so almost everyone is also subject to misfortunes, some more dire than others. An early death, enslavement, the agony of poverty, carried to the extreme of destitution, imprisonment, in solitary confinement, these things can completely frustrate a person's pursuit of happiness. They result in the misery that is the very opposite of happiness. However, misfortunes may not completely frustrate, but merely impede an individual's effort to make a good life for himself or herself. Under what conditions are we best able to overcome such misfortunes and still save our lives from the wreckage of bad luck?.
We must consider the problem the individual faces when the circumstances of his life are such that he must take into account the effects of both good and bad fortune. By fortune, it means any aspects of our lives that is beyond our control.........the things that happen to us, the accidents that befall us, for good or ill. By bad fortune, or misfortune, it means the accidents or circumstances that are adverse or unfavorable to making a good life for one's self. And by bad fortune, it means the opposite..........the accidents or circumstances that are felicitating or favorable. Rather must you consider the lives of those in distress, reflecting on their intense sufferings, in order that your own possessions and condition may seem great and enviable, and you may , by ceasing to desire more, cease to suffer in your soul..........One must.........(compare) one's own life with that of those in worst cases, and must consider oneself fortunate, reflecting on their sufferings, on being so much better off than they.
A life can be ruined at birth or in infancy or childhood by extreme misfortunes of one kind or another. What is true of these early years is also true of the middle and later years in life. Extreme misfortune can be ruinous. An individual can be adversely affected..........we sometimes say 'spoiled' his early years by an excess of good fortune. While this extreme is not likely to be as ruinous if it occurs later, it is still possible for an excessive good fortune to be a serious impediment: for it involves highly seductive temptations. The individual who earns a bare subsistence by work is drudgery, sorely tempted to fill the rest of his hours with diverse form of sleep and play. At the other extreme, the individual who is surrounded by luxuries or who has the means of obtaining them is also subject to strong temptations that may have as adverse an effect on his life as deprivation has on the life of the unfortunate.
The stronger our moral virtue, the more likely are we to be able to make good lives for ourselves in spite of these misfortunes. The other side of the same picture is that hard luck and adversity, when the misfortunes do not cause irreparable damage or destructive deprivations, may result in the strengthening of moral virtue. Being blessed with benign conditions and affluence of unmitigated good fortune usually has exactly the opposite effect. It is more difficult to develop moral virtue under such conditions than it is under adversity, when that is not crippling or totally destructive.

Mortimer J. Adler, PhD, 'Why strength of character is needed to head to a good life'.
Mortimer J. Adler, PhD, 'Is anyone ever perfectly Virtuous or completely happy'.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Deep changes in character
from mercifulness to callousness
from fretfulness to cheerfulness
morals become fanatic or fantastic
morals become sentimental or authoritative

The problem of desire
the problem of intelligence
what a man foresees
he appraises highly
and he appraises at a lower rate
he dwells upon
and he slurs over
what he deems important
what he deems trivial
he can easily recalls
and he naturally forgets

Things sweet in anticipation
bitter in actual taste
likes and dislikes
perceptions are not alike
conflict and disharmony
attractions and disdains
the path of truth is narrow
the path of truth is straitened

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


The history of this planet is replete with failed examples of ‘forced morality’. For centuries we have tried to force people to be moral, with threats of hell. That hasn’t worked either. Only we, freely and on our own, can adapt a common sense moral code, and only we can gently offer our ideas on morality to our friends and family. We can offer those ideas gently to others, and some will accept, just as we have, the offer this common sense moral code. Ethics and morality cannot be forced onto one…he will never become ethical because of fear…either fear of god, fear of hell or fear of jail. Fear can control behavior, but not morality. That has been the mistake made down through time…. confusing controlled behavior, brought about by fear and inner morality, where the person does something based on his own view of what he should do.
Moral virtue is a habit formed by free choice on our part. It is also true that free choice enters into the formation of the habits that are intellect virtues; it does so only to the extent that one must be voluntarily disposed to learn and to profit from teaching. In contrast, every action we perform that develops either a virtuous or vicious habit is itself a free chosen act, precisely because free choice operates at every stage in the development of moral virtue, no one attempting to inculcate moral virtue by teaching can succeed.
Moral virtue by itself is not enough to make a good life. Were it sufficient by itself, there would be no point whatsoever in all the political, social, and economic reforms that have brought about progress in the external condition of human life. If morally virtuous persons can live well and become happy in spite of dire poverty; in spite of being enslaved, in spite of being compelled by circumstances to lead two or three part lives, with insufficient time for leisure, in spite of an unhealthy environment, in spite of being disfranchise and treated as nonparticipating subjects of government, rather than as citizens with a voice in their own government, then the social, political and economic reforms that eliminate these conditions and replace them with better ones make no contribution to the human happiness.
Our first moral criticisms are exercised upon the characters and conduct of other people. And we are all very forward to observe how each of those affects us. But we soon learn that other people are equally frank with regard to our own. We become anxious to know how far we deserve their censure or applause, and whether to them we must necessarily appear those agreeable or disagreeable creatures which they represent us. We begin, upon this account, to examine our own passions and conduct, and to consider how these must appear to them by considering how they would appear to us if in their situation. We suppose ourselves the spectators of our own behavior, and endeavor to imagine what effect it would in this light, produce upon us. This is the only looking-glass by which we can, in some measure, with the eyes of other people, scrutinize the propriety of our own conduct. If in this view it pleases us, we are tolerably satisfied.
To be amiable and to be notorious, that is, to deserve love and to deserve reward, are the great characters of virtue, and to be odious and punishable of vice. Virtue is not said to be amiable or to be notorious, because it is the object of its own love, or of its own gratitude but because it excites those sentiments in other men. What so great happiness as to be beloved? What so great misery as to be hated, and to know that we deserve to be hated?
Men naturally desires, not only to be loved but to be lovely, or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of love. He naturally dreads not only to be hated , but to be hateful; or to be that thing which is the natural and proper object of hatred. He desires not only praise, but praiseworthiness or to be that thing which, though it should be praised by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of praise. He dreads, not only blame, but blameworthiness; or to be the thing which, though it be blamed by nobody, is, however, the natural and proper object of blame.
If moral virtue were identical with knowledge, it could be taught but it is not identical with knowledge. We are acquainted with instances, in our own life and the life of others, where individuals know what they ought to do and fail to do it, or do what they know they ought not to do. The free choices that enters at every step into the formation of moral character and does not enter into the development of excellent behavior on the part of domesticated animals is the crux of the matter. That is why we can train horses and dogs to behave well habitually, but not human beings.
Unfortunately, one's moral character gets formed, one way or another, in youth. It can of course be changed later, but only by heroic effort and without these, seldom successfully. Toward the end of our lives when maturity enables us to take the long-term point of view and think about our lives as a whole, little time is left for judgments about what is best in the long run. The young who have, ample time ahead of them, and so should profit from thinking about their life as a whole are prevented by their immaturity from taking thought for the future. They are unable to profit from the experience of an older generation.
Those who cannot profit from the mistakes of others are condemned to repeat them. Thus they are destined to find out everything for themselves by trial and error. How this enables some of them to grow into adults of sound moral character and others to grow up into adults lacking moral virtue, no one knows. With all intensity, our position, our survival, our safety, and even our health, all of this depend on the morality of those who are close to us.....those on whom we depend for support. The amount of the future survival depends among other things, on the level of morality.
People tend to gravitate toward the morality of a group----if you join a group and find its morals far lower then your own-----get out!

Mortimer J. Adler, PhD, 'Is anyone ever happy perfectly virtuous or completely happy?'.
Mortimer J Adler, PhD, 'How can one individual help another to become morally virtuous'.
Adam Smith, 'Of the foundations of our judgments'.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


Is it with me you are angry
is it for me you are uneasy
is it possible to possess love
is it possible to taste the delights of love

I am as wretched as yourself
I will not say without desires
can we avoid feeling an anxious
can ever man be so happy
if only once in my life
only an innocent life
only a quiet life
a heart once haughty

What then is become
our friendship and confidence
what means have I lost them
I ought and will be just to you
how much less will you lose
how much do your amiable disposition
how much do your gentle disposition
how much do your inexhaustible goodness of the heart
how much do your frankness and amiable virtues
how much do your other amiable virtues
compensate for your foibles

What emotion in our first embrace
the lively dreams I felt
the tears of joy
the tears of tenderness
the tears I frequently shed
the soul and body
they do not suffer together
they endure separate inconveniences

My life and health
in the cares you exhort me to take
you hold my tears
as cheap in the pain you give men
why have not I had reason
to shed them more frequently

Monday, July 7, 2008


Adam Smith (1759) wrote in "The Theory of Moral Sentiments":
We desire both to be respectable and to be respected. We dread both to be contemptible and to be contemned. But, upon coming into the world, we soon find that wisdom and virtue are by no means the sole objects of respect; nor vice and folly, of contempt. We frequently see the respectful attentions of the world more strongly directed towards the rich and the great, than towards the wise and the virtuous. We see frequently the vices and follies of the powerful much less despised than the poverty and weakness of the innocent.
To deserve, to acquire, and to enjoy the respect and admiration of mankind, are the great objects of ambition and emulation. Two different roads are presented to us, equally leading to the attainment of this so much desired object. The one, by the study of wisdom and the practice of virtue; the other, by the acquisition of wealth and greatness. Two different characters are presented to our emulation; the one, of proud ambition, the other, of humble modesty and equitable justice. Two different models, two different pictures, are held out to us, according to which we may fashion our own character and behavior; the one more glittering in its coloring; the other more correct and more exquisitely beautiful in its outline: the one forcing itself upon the notice of every wandering eye; the other, attracting the attention of scarce any body but the most studious and careful observer. They are the wise and the virtuous chiefly, a select, though, but a small party, who are the real and steady admirers of wisdom and virtue. The great mob of mankind are the admirers and worshipers, and, what may seem more extraordinary, most frequently the disinterested admirers and worshipers, of wealth and greatness.
Hence begins this “Wealth Through the Eye of the Sages” as follows:
Over the years, we’ve found ourselves in many conversations that turned rather briskly on the subject of money and wealth. The focus, invariably, would be on all the corruptions that accompany abundance: smugness and complacency in character, the monomaniacal obsession of having more and more; indifference to the suffering of others; the habit of extracting special favors from politicians, the inclination to sequester oneself from the rabble (life in hidden and faraway mansions) and thus to flee from the very real problems of society. Then as now, we tended to sympathize with the person too mindful of the traps of power and too inclined to fulminate against the super rich. A double harm is committed when morality deflects personal weaknesses and conceals a starving ego. In a culture that equates wealth with virtue and construes meaning and purpose as mere ‘success’, success cries out for a countervailing attitude. Such an attitude must rise above the easy riposte that says ‘You’re just jealous because you don’t have my money.
“Riches are valuables at all times and to all men; because they always purchase pleasures such as men are accustomed to and desire. Nor can anything (sic) restrain or regulate the love of money but a sense of honor and virtue, which if it be not nearly equal at all times, will naturally abound most in ages of knowledge and refinement. The desire for money takes the place of all genuinely human needs. Thus the apparent accumulation of wealth is really the impoverishment of human nature, and its appropriate morality is the renunciation of human nature and desires. And this dehumanized human nature produces an inhuman consciousness, whose only currency is abstractions divorced from real life --- the industrious, coolly rational economic prosaic mind. Capitalism has made us so stupid and one-sided that objects exist for us only if we can possess them or if they have utility” - David Hume (1771-1776), “Of Refinement In The Arts”.
One class is very rich, another very poor, and a third in a mean. It is admitted that moderation and the mean are the best, and therefore it will clearly be best to possess the gifts of fortune in moderation; for in that condition of life men are most really to follow rational principle. But he who greatly in beauty, strength, birth or wealth, or on the other hand who is very poor or very weak or very much disgraced, finds it difficult to follow rational principle. Of this two, one sort grow into violent and great criminals, the others into rouges and petty rascals. And two sorts of offenses correspond to them, the one committed from violence, the other from roguery. Again, the middle class is least likely to shrink from rule or to be over-ambitious for it; both of which are injuries to the country. Again, those who have too much of the goods of fortune, strength, wealth, friends and the likes, are neither willing nor able to submit to authority. The evil begins at home; for when they are boys, by reason of the luxury in which they are brought up, they never learn, even at school, the habit of obedience. On the other hand, the very poor, who are in the opposite extreme, are too degraded, so that the one class cannot obey and can only rule despotically; the other knows not how to command and must be ruled like slaves. Thus arises a nation, not of free man, but of masters and slaves; the one despising, the other envying; and nothing can be more fatal to friendship and good fellowship; when men are enmity with one another, they would rather not even share the same path.
It is because mankind are disposed to sympathize more entirely with our joy than with our sorrow, that we make parade of our riches, and conceal our poverty. It is chiefly from this regard to the sentiments of mankind, that we pursue riches and avoid poverty. For to what purpose is all the toil and bustle of this world? What is the end of avarice and ambition, of the pursuit of wealth, of power, and preeminence? Is it to supply the necessities of nature? what are the advantages which we propose by that great purpose of human life which we call bettering our condition? To be observed, to be attended to, to be taken notice of with sympathy, complacency, and approbation, are all the advantages which we can propose to derive from it. It is the vanity, not the ease, or the pleasure, which interests us. But vanity is always founded upon the belief of our being the object of attention and approbation. The rich man glories in his riches, because he feels that they naturally draw upon him the attention of the world, and that mankind are disposed to go along with him in all those agreeable emotions with which the advantages of his situation so readily inspire him. At the thought of this, his heart seems to swell and dilate itself within him, and he is fonder of his wealth, upon this account, than for all the other advantages it procures him. The poor man, on the contrary, is ashamed of his poverty. The poor man goes out and comes in unheeded, and when in the midst of a crowd is in the same obscurity as if shut up in his own hovel. The man of rank and distinction, on the contrary, is observed by all the world. His actions are the objects of the public care. Scarce a word, scarce a gesture, can fall from him that is altogether neglected. In a great assembly he is the person upon whom all direct their eyes; it is upon him that their passions seem all to wait with expectation, in order to receive that movement and direction which he shall impress upon them; and if his behavior is not altogether absurd, he has, every moment, an opportunity of interesting mankind, and of rendering himself the object of the observation and fellow-feeling of every body about him. Upon this disposition of mankind is founded the distinction of ranks, and the order of society. Their benefits can extend but to a few, but their fortunes interest almost every body. We are eager to assist them in completing a system of happiness that approaches so near to perfection; and we desire to serve them for their own sake, without any other recompense but the vanity or the honor of obliging them. Even when the order of society seems to require that we should oppose them, we can hardly bring ourselves to do it. That they are to be obeyed, resisted, deposed, or punished, as the public convenience may require, is the doctrine of reason and philosophy; but it is not the doctrine of Nature. Nature would teach us to submit to them for their own sake, to tremble and bow down, to regard their smile as a reward sufficient to compensate any services, and to dread their displeasure, though no other evil were to follow from it.
This disposition to admire, and almost to worship, the rich and the powerful, and to despise, or, at least, to neglect persons of poor and mean condition, though necessary both to establish and to maintain the distinction of ranks and the order of society, is, at the same time, the great and most universal cause of the corruption of our moral sentiments. That wealth and greatness are often regarded with the respect and admiration which are due only to wisdom and virtue; and that the contempt, of which vice and folly are the only proper objects, is often most unjustly bestowed upon poverty and weakness, has been the complaint in all ages.
It is from our disposition to admire, and consequently to imitate, the rich and the great, that they are enabled to set, or to lead what is called the fashion. Their dress is the fashionable dress; the language of their conversation, the fashionable style; their air and deportment, the fashionable behavior. Even their vices and follies are fashionable; and the greater part of men are proud to imitate and resemble them in the very qualities which dishonor and degrade them. They desire to be praised for what they themselves do not think praise-worthy, and are ashamed of unfashionable virtues which they sometimes practice in secret. There are hypocrites of wealth and greatness, as well as of religion and virtue; and a vain man is as apt to pretend to be what he is not, in the one way, as a cunning man is in the other. Many a poor man places his glory in being thought rich, without considering that the duties which that reputation imposes upon him, must soon reduce him to beggary, and render his situation still more unlike that of those whom he admires and imitates, than it had been originally.
To attain to this envied situation, the candidates for fortune too frequently abandon the paths of virtue; for unhappily, the road which leads to the one, and that which leads to the other, lie sometimes in very opposite directions.


is a great American artist. Critics often dismiss his work as being edited versions of ideal American life, but his paintings' visual generosity and relentless perfectionism rank him with other master realist painters. He is usually described as an illustrator, whereas most artists who paint pictures are called painters. There is little or no difference between a painter and an illustrator except for the kinds of subjects they choose. Both do their work on paper and canvas, and both use pencils, crayons and paints to make their pictures. The subjects chosen by illustrators either tell a story that most people can understand or they make pictures for a book that show part of a story written by an author. A painter, on the other hand, usually chooses a subject where the picture stands by itself. It may show a vase of flowers or a landscape scene—or ...
Rockwell enjoyed drawing at an early age and soon decided he wanted to be an artist. During his freshman year in high school, he also attended the Chase School on Saturdays to study art. Later that year he attended Chase twice a week. Halfway through his sophomore year, he quit high school and went full time to art school.
He enrolled first in the National Academy School and then attended the Art Students League. At the Art Students League, Rockwell was strongly influenced by his teachers George Bridgeman, who helped him excel in his drawing skills, and Thomas Fogarty, who passed on his enthusiasm for illustration to Rockwell. While Rockwell was still at the school, Fogarty sent him to a publisher, where he got a job illustrating a children's book. He next received an assignment from Boys' Life magazine. The editor liked his work and continued to give him assignments. Eventually Rockwell was made art director of the magazine. He worked regularly on other children's magazines as well. "The kind of work I did seemed to be what the magazines wanted," he remarked in his autobiography.
NORMAN ROCKWELL, whose work has been reproduced more often than Michelangelo's, Picasso's, and Rembrandt's put together, was a success from the start of his career. He told stories through his illustrations that reflected idealized views of American life, showing ordinary people doing ordinary things. He was a master at his craft, who was as much at ease painting kings, statesmen, presidents and movie stars as he was at painting freckled-faced boys, pigtailed girls, kindly old folks. He wrote:
“I paint life as I would like it to be. If there was sadness in this creative world of mine, it was a pleasant sadness. If there were problems, they were humorous problems. The common places of America are to me the richest subjects in art, boys batting flies on vacant lots; girls playing jacks on front steps; old men plodding home at twilight; all these arouse feelings in me. Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. Things happen in the country, but you don't see them. In the city you are constantly confronted by unpleasantness. I find it sordid and unsettling. I've always wanted everybody to like my work. I could never be satisfied with just the approval of the critics. So I've painted pictures that didn't disturb anybody, that I knew everyone would understand and like.”
As a young illustrator, he had a secret ambition-- to have his work appear on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Indeed, at the start of Rockwell's career, the magazine (first published in 1729) was then reaching an audience of 2 million readers who were entertained and informed with articles by the leading names in literature and artwork from the brightest stars in illustration.
In 1916, the 22-year-old Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post, the magazine considered by Rockwell to be the "greatest show window in America". Rockwell was following in the footsteps of his heroes, such as illustrator J.C. Leyendecker. It was Rockwell's dream to do a Post cover. Since he did not have an appointment, he showed his work to the art editor, who then showed it to Lorimer. The editor accepted Rockwell's two finished paintings for covers as well as three sketches for future covers. Over the next 47 years, another 321 Rockwell covers would appear on the cover of the Post.

Top 25 Norman Rockwell images:
Saturday Evening Post Covers

Rockwell's success with the Post made him more attractive to other magazines, and he began selling paintings and drawings to Life, Judge, and Leslie's. In 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I (1914–18; a war fought between German-led Central Powers and the Allies: England, the United States, Italy, and other nations), Rockwell joined the navy and was assigned to the camp newspaper. Meanwhile, he continued painting for the Post and other publications. After the war Rockwell started doing advertising illustration, working for Jell-O, Willys cars, and Orange Crush soft drinks, among others.
After President Franklin Roosevelt (1882–1945) made a speech to Congress in 1941 describing the "four essential human freedoms," Rockwell created paintings of the four freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. He completed the paintings in six months in 1942, and they were published in the Post in 1943. The pictures became greatly popular, and many other publications asked the Post for permission to reprint them. The federal government also took the original paintings on a national tour to sell war bonds. As Ben Hibbs, editor of the Post, noted in Rockwell's autobiography, "They were viewed by 1,222,000 people in 16 leading cities and were instrumental in selling $132,992,539 worth of bonds".
Although the Four Freedoms series was a great success, 1943 also brought Rockwell an enormous loss. A fire destroyed his Arlington studio as well as numerous paintings and his collection of historical costumes and props.
Rockwell published his autobiography, “My Adventures as an Illustrator”, in 1960. The Saturday Evening Post carried excerpts from the best-selling book in eight consecutive issues, with Rockwell''s Triple Self-Portrait on the cover of the first. In 1961 he received an honorary (obtained without meeting the usual requirements) Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts as well as award for his Post cover painting of the Golden Rule. Rockwell's last Post cover (he did three hundred seventeen in all) appeared in December 1963. The magazine's circulation was shrinking at that time, and new management decided to switch to a new format. Rockwell continued painting news pictures for Look and contributing to McCall's.
Norman Rockwell began working with Brown & Bigelow when he created an image for the first Boy Scout calendar. This calendar became one of his largest series of illustrations on a single theme.His calendar paintings for the world jamboree years of 1963 and 1967 both depicted Scouts of various nations joyously united. Rockwell's illustrations almost defined America in the middle part of the 20th century; they certainly helped define Scouting. His career spanned nearly the whole history of the Boy Scouts to date, encompassing an age during which both America and the Boy Scouts grew immensely. Under exclusive authorization from the Boy Scouts of America, Brown & Bigelow commissioned 50 paintings in this series through 1976.
He painted more illustrations for Brown & Bigelow calendars than for any other medium except the Saturday Evening Post. For the Boy Scout stamp, Rockwell brought 14-year old Thorton Percival of Stockbridge, Massachusetts into his studio in Scout uniform to be his model. Thorton was 14 years old at the time. This stamp became one of the most popular U.S. stamps with a printing of over 139 million.
In the sixties, Rockwell's focus broadened to include many more minority and foreign Scouts. Rockwell worked on special stamps for the Postal Service as well as posters for the Treasury Department, the military, and Hollywood movies. Beginning in 1948, his series of “Four Seasons” illustrations featured four images each year following characters through a complete year of changing seasons.
Norman Rockwell's heartwarming illustrations of American life appeared on covers of the Saturday Evening Post magazine for many years. When people use the expression "as American as apple pie," they could just as well say "as American as a Norman Rockwell painting". The pictures of NORMAN ROCKWELL were recognized and loved by almost everybody in America. The cover of The Saturday Evening Post was his showcase for over forty years, giving him an audience larger than that of any other artist in history. Over the years he depicted a unique collection of Americana, a series of vignettes of remarkable warmth and humor. In addition, he painted a great number of pictures for story illustrations, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars, and books. For over a half century Norman Rockwell recorded the history of America with a paintbrush giving people images of the special moments they cherish most in life. Today the appeal of his art endures because he was a master at capturing the humor and humanity of ordinary people engaged in everyday living. Norman Rockwell may very well be America’s most beloved and well-known artist. He also did illustrations for Sears mail-order catalogs, Hallmark greeting cards, and books such as The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

NORMAN ROCKWELL was proud of his chosen profession as an illustrator. He was a skilled storyteller whose painterly images were made for the rapidly changing era of mass media. The people adored his work, and Rockwell cared about his public. Receiving fan mail by the bagful, he was the people's artist. At a time when many viewers stared in bemusement at Pablo Picasso's fractured shapes and at Jackson Pollock's dribbled paint, Rockwell was an artist they understood because he so clearly understood them. Considered a modest, retiring man, not given to grand gestures, Norman impressed himself on America's collective imagination by his stubborn adherence to the old values. His ability to relate these values to the events and circumstances of a rapidly changing world made him a special person—both hero and friend—to millions of his compatriots. He is the most popular American artist of this century. The themes of his work define a turbulent period that opened with barefoot boys lazing away summer afternoons in the countryside and ended with their sons stepping cautiously onto the surface of the moon. He chronicled times: the change from parental paddling to ... His ability to "get the point across" in one picture, and his flair for painstaking detail made him a favorite of the advertising industry.
He has consistently offered to popular American culture a fresh, immediately understandable vision of others to which others may aspire or with which others may relax in reassuring recognition. He painted a selectively positive vision of the everyday life he lived, consistently using friends, relatives, and neighbors as his models.

For these visions, Norman Rockwell, we salute you.

The artist died in 1978 at the age of 84.

Informations supplied by:

Copyright held by Curtis Publishing Company
Courtesy of The Norman Rockwell Museum

Friday, July 4, 2008


The cradle of civilization
falling down the hole of evolution
everywhere we roam
extinction begins
the road of history does not lie
like a trail of footprints
through muddy path
devoid of human nature
the devil’s excrement bleeds black
rotting death omnipresent
The violence only escalates
the neuron delusion
dwindles into twilight

It’s only logical
with us it should end
it’s chaos where order once stood
from our start in the tree
to the land of the free


J. C. Leyendecker, American artist and illustrator
Author: Unidentified photographer

This "J.C.LEYENDECKER" is the first of what I hope to be a regular article featuring an artist (living or dead) that I think everyone ought to know about. Illustration happens to be my area of focus, but I’m keeping the criteria wide open. Ideally this will be a way for me to learn about new artists as well.
The first featured artist is a ghost of illustration’s past, Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951). J.C.Leyendecker’s long and illustrious career is so damned interesting, I’m not quite sure where to begin. He was personally very shy and something of a recluse. His brother Frank was also an incredibly talented artist, though eventually overshadowed by his big brother.
If you were to ask most people to name the most successful American illustrator of the first half of the 20th Century, who was a classically trained artist and master craftsman, who was in large part responsible for the popular image people, who created the notion of using a baby to represent the New Year in illustrations.
whose productive career spanned 50 years, who basically invented the look of 20th Century magazine cover design, and who painted more Saturday Evening Post covers than any other artist — the answer would invariably be “Norman Rockwell”, an answer that would just as invariably be wrong. In fact, this is a description of Joseph Christian Leyendecker. Leyendecker was a fantastic illustrator whose paintings are marvels of design, draughtsmanship and the beautifully controlled application of color.J.C. Leyendecker was among the first artists to create the modern magazine cover that functions as a separately engaging art piece. His 40 year stint painting covers for The Saturday Evening Post made him among the most known artists of his time, and inspired some guy named Norman Rockwell to the point of stalker obsession. Rockwell went so far as moving to the same block that Leyendecker lived on, just to be closer to his idol (who undoubtably influenced the great American illustrator’s every brush stroke).






And like many of his contemporaries, he demonstrated early talent that was nurtured by his parents. In 1889 he completed what education he was to get. His family was unable to pay for further education in the arts, so Leyendecker apprenticed himself at the age of 15 to J. Manz & Co., a Chicago engraving house. He took art lessons in the evenings at the Chicago Art Institute. One of his primary instructors there was John H. Vanderpoel, whose books on anatomy are still being sought after today.
In September 1896 he left Chicago to study in Paris for two years at the Academie Julian and Colorossi's, two of that city's most celebrated art schools. He was accompanied by his younger brother, Frank (1877-1924), who was sent along by their parents not only to study, but also to provide their elder son companionship. It was along the Parisian streets, ablaze with the vibrant poster art of Jules Cherét (1836-1933), Alphonse Mucha (1860-1939), and Henri de Toulouse Lautrec (1864-1901), that Leyendecker came to the realization that a talented artist could gain both critical acclaim and monetary rewards as a commercial illustrator. It was to that end that he now turned his attention. Over the next half century he seldom deviated from his decision to pursue a career in commercial art.
The Leyendecker brothers returned to Chicago in the summer of 1897 where they opened a joint studio. The following year J. C. Leyendecker did his first cover artwork for Collier's magazine; over the next ten years he would produce forty seven more. Just before the turn-of-the-century, he received a commission to produce an image for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. This rather undistinguished image that illustrated a story on the Spanish American War for the Post's May 20 issue was the first of 322 covers he would produce for the magazine between 1899 and 1943.
The Leyendecker brothers moved to New York in 1900 and five years later J. C. Leyendecker received what was arguably his most important commission. He was hired by Cluett, Peabody & Company to develop a series of images to help sell its Arrow Brand shirt collars. Leyendecker's "Arrow Collar Men," as well as the images he was also soon creating for Kuppenheimer Suits and Interwoven Socks, came to define the fashionable American male during the early decades of the 20th century. The "Arrow Collar Men" received more fan mail from women and young girls than most film and stage actors of the day. Leyendecker's models for these images included the likes of Fredric March, Brian Donlevy and Jack Mulhall-all of whom would later gain fame as film stars. His favorite model, however, was Howard Beach, the man who became his life companion. Beach first posed for Leyendecker in 1901 and was the first of his "Arrow Collar Men".
Another important commission for Leyendecker was from Kellogg's, the breakfast food manufacturer. As part of a major advertising campaign, he created a series of 20 "Kellogg's Kids" to promote Kellogg's Corn Flakes. These images of babies, small children, and teenagers are as winsome and winning today as when they were created over 90 years ago.
Joseph was working for national publications like Colliers and The Saturday Evening Post and the Chicago studio was exchanged for one in New York, the hub of the magazine industry. From there he poured forth an amazing quantity of illustrations, covers and advertisements. The new ability to reproduce color illustrations was taking the magazine industry by storm and they competed strongly for works that merited the expense. Leyendecker was what we'd call today a "hot property" as his paintings sold magazines and books, and publishers wanted more than just a cover.
During both world wars, Leyendecker lent his talents to this nation's war effort. From 1917-19 he created posters to support various war bond drives, promote fuel conservation, and encourage enlistment in the different branches of the armed services. After the United States entered World War II in 1941, he created a series of war bond posters featuring American military leaders.
In his lifetime, Joseph Christian Leyendecker (1874-1951) created 48 cover paintings for Collier’s magazine and 322 covers for Saturday Evening Post, more than even Norman Rockwell. His work over the years also included advertising campaigns with illustrations for Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, Arrow shirts, and Kuppenheimer menswear. His popularity was due to his ability to convey in paintings the essence of both everyday life and international events. His unique sense of drama, romanticism, and humor captured America’s imagination.


Easter Hunt

Easter Walk



Leyendecker's art was always immediately recognizable after 1905. He developed a distinctive brush technique and a unique use of highlights within shadows. Some of his originals appear almost unfinished because he let the underpainting show through to represent the brightest highlights. He had a tremendous impact on other illustrators. His work is dazzling in its technical proficiency, beautifully composed and designed, and drawn with the kind of flair and refined skill that only comes to the best of the best. He would make the application of paint (supposedly with a secret proprietary oil painting medium) appear as part of the design, with strokes of color defining the form in his paintings the way hatching is used in drawings. He was also a genius for finding “the straight within the curved”, and his figures have a sharp, crisp geometry that makes them really snap. Seemingly simple things like folds in cloth became wonders of painted design, zig-zagging valleys of carefully controlled color, highlighted with those amazing strokes of color hatching.

New Year Ticket




Statue of Liberty

Leyendecker reportedly worked in stages, creating many small-scale studies from which he would then construct the whole using the traditional technique of “squaring up” to transfer to the larger canvas. The American Art Archives site has a great page of his studies that is not to be missed by anyone interested in the techniques of one of the great illustrators. His painting style is unmistakably his own, shockingly and timelessly modern. His observant shaping, exaggerated anatomy, animated gestures and highly expressive brush strokes will continue to influence and inspire illustrators forever.


Uncle Sam

Leyendecker's popularity at the Post was due to his ability to convey the essence of everyday life in America through artwork that reflected his unique sense of drama, romanticism, and humor. Another key to his commercial success was his distinctive style, which combined bright colors with bold, heavy brushwork.

Horse Girl



Marching Band

New Year Stocks

In 1943, the editorship of the Post changed and the new editor felt that Leyendecker was too strongly associated with the "old" magazine. So goes 40 years of a mutually satisfying relationship. Joe had to go looking for work. He found it, but not in the quantity he was used to. He maintained his palatial home in New Rochelle, but had to let the servants go. Alas. The tail end of Leyendecker’s career was rocky at best, as he struggled to secure the work that had come so effortlessly throughout his entire career. Rockwell became the new face of the Saturday Evening Post, and Joseph slipped into obscurity. He later died of a heart attack, and his Saturday Evening Post paintings were sold for $75 each by his sister. Something to look forward to kids, becoming the most famous artist of your time, only to die frustrated and forgotten. Yay!

Even if he hadn't been a great artist, J.C. Leyendecker would have won awards for his marvelous signature.

Information Supplied by Traditional Fine Arts Org.Inc

Images of SEP Covers: Courtesy of Andrew Bosley
Other Images: Courtesy of SEP