American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, a new biography of the great American artist and iconic figure Norman Rockwell, accuses him of being a closeted homosexual, basing the spurious claim on the fact that Rockwell would stop young boys on the street or at recess and ask if they would pose for his illustrations. The author, Deborah Solomon, ignores the fact that Rockwell, who was married three times and had three children with his second wife, who died unexpectedly in 1959, stated in his autobiography that after he asked the boy, they would go together to ask the child’s mother for permission.
Rockwell’s family is furious about the biography for its sloppiness and misuse of sources, saying there are a multitude of inaccuracies as well as a “phantom theory” about his sexuality. The family released a statement saying there were at least 96 factual errors in the book, and that Solomon made “highly selective” use of Rockwell’s autobiography “My Adventures as an Illustrator.”
Solomon would not reply to inquiries.
Solomon wrote that Rockwell’s actions in asking the young boys would be seen as problematic today, but the family responded in their statement, “She supports this unfounded claim with another phantom theory, that Rockwell was a closeted homosexual. To link pedophilia and homosexuality in this way is offensive and clearly homophobic.”
Solomon told The Wall Street Journal in October that in her opinion, Rockwell did not have homosexual relationships, but he preferred male company and it was possible to find “enormous homoeroticism.” She has said, “He demonstrated an intense need for emotional and physical closeness with men. From the viewpoint of 21st century gender studies, a man who yearns for the company of men is considered homosexual, whether or not he has sex with other men.”
Consider Solomon’s interpretations of some of Rockwell’s most famous paintings:
The Runaway, which shows a police officer and a young boy eating lunch at a counter as the they converse in front of the counterman: Solomon finds a “hint of homoeroticism.”
Gary Cooper as The Texan: Solomon insists that the cowboy hat in the foreground is “a barricade in the foreground to keep you from touching. He cannot allow himself to touch what he wants.”
But to really understand the insidiousness of Solomon, check out her interpretation of the moving and tender illustration “Girl at Mirror,” which shows a young girl looking at herself in the mirror and comparing herself to a photograph of the movie star Jane Russell. Here’s Solomon’s take, as she destroys the innocence of the illustration:
Her toy doll, dressed in layers of ruffles and tossed on the floor, is a bizarrely sexualized object. A series of oil sketches indicate that Rockwell originally situated the doll behind the mirror, sitting up primly, and it was only in the final painting that he moved the doll to her position of smashed innocence. She is shown bent over, legs splayed, her rump lifted into the air and pressed against the hard edge of the mirror. With her right hand buried in her petticoats, the doll could almost be masturbating.
Solomon has suggested that Rockwell was lonely, moody and frequently depressed, but the family dismissed those claims; Rockwell’s son, Thomas, and granddaughter, Abigail, stated, “This is absurd. He did not mope, was not a chronic depressive, or a hypochondriac. He went through his trials and storms as we all do, but he was someone who ultimately affirmed life.”
The family also said they were unhappy that the Norman Rockwell Museum has endorsed the book. The director of the museum, Laurie Norton Moffatt, called the biography “a well-researched and written biography that presents many unique theories and interpretations about the artist.”
Solomon has also authored biographies of artists Jackson Pollack and Joseph Cornell.