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Canine Commotion

In Issue:

A truck drive tries to coax a dog to move away from his vehicle.

Alley oops!Road Bock was staged in the MacArthur Park neighborhood of Los Angeles. Recognize the violin teacher, upper right? It’s Norman Rockwell making a cameo appearance.
© SEPS

All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players,” wrote Shakespeare. Rings true in this urban scene starring a balky bulldog that brings the world to a halt while the supporting cast tries to coax him out of the way.

In Norman Rockwell’s Road Block that appeared on the July 9, 1949, issue of the Post, we see the great American visual storyteller at his best. With only a split second to reach his audience on newsstands, Rockwell understood that every cover had to deliver an entire narrative in a flash. And as filmmaker George Lucas noted, Rockwell was a true master “at telling a story in one frame.”

Like a great movie director, Rockwell instinctively knew how to orchestrate each frame for maximum impact — casting models, directing each character’s pose and facial expression, positioning props, and capturing the best lighting for optimal effect. In the late ’30s, Rockwell began using photographs to develop his compositions, at times selecting elements from as many as 100 photographs into color sketches and pencil drawings before painting the final canvas.

Nothing is accidental in a Rockwell painting.

Employing a pyramidal composition, Rockwell directs the attention of all 20 figures in the painting — and ours — to the central character. The artist’s pointed brush, a window washer’s downward glance, the pet owner’s distraught expression on the balcony, bicyclist and postman on standby, neighborhood kids facing forward, and of course the delayed driver’s urgent pleas, every detail meticulously selected and rendered to capture the viewer’s attention.

In a flash, we get it — no explanation required. George Lucas was right. For Rockwell, one frame was all he needed.

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  • Alley oops indeed, Patrick. There’s not a lot more I can say that you and the cover itself haven’t already, but I’ll try. The PEPIES truck itself getting stuck in that narrow alley would have seemed a more likely scenario than our front and center bulldog looking (to me) too frightened to move. A spoonful of peanut butter surely would have come in handy here.

    Having minorities featured on the cover also caught my eye, as well as the lady by the bicycle. If he were painting her today, he really wouldn’t have to change a thing.