Friday, November 07, 2008

Arty Farty Friday: Saturn/Uranus, Social Realism, Irving Norman.

Casting around the net for inspiration I found an interesting artist who's new to me. I see his paintings as exceptionally meaningful now, as this momentous week in American politics comes to an end. This artist's work is a commentary on the human condition, horror of war, hardships, and anomalies of modern life. I'm absolutely certain that Irving Norman would approve of America's new President Elect.

Irving Norman. He was born in Vilna, Lithuania, it was under Russian control then, in 1906. He emigrated to the USA in 1923 and worked as a barber. In 1938 he volunteered to join the Abraham Lincoln Batallion to fight in the Spanish Civil War defending the Spanish Republic against fascism. This experience was the catalyst from which his artistic abilities emerged. On his return to the USA, in deep depression from his experiences in Spain, he came to realise that working in politics, to advance the communism which he had espoused, would not satisfy him. During art classes in California he developed the skills needed to express his feelings through art. By 1945 his first major solo exhibition was held in San Francisco.

Irving Norman is one of America's foremost proponents of a genre of art known as Social Realism. His work is a mix of representational, surrealist and abstract art. It is intense, sometimes brutal, critical of modern life, of the horror of war. I cannot describe it better in a nutshell than Mark Vallen (here)
"Yet beneath the unrelenting focus on the ills of a world gone mad, there was a profound humanist vision. Norman's paintings were like screams of anguish pleading for a better world."

Irving Norman's paintings portray the flip side of life as portrayed in the warm fuzzy, apple pie style of my favourite illustrator, Norman Rockwell. We do need both sides of the coin in order to see a complete picture.

To Have and Have Not

The Orator

Illusions (My Cathedral)

Day and Night, Night and Day, Blind and Hungry

Does Irving Norman's astrology fit? Born 6 January 1906 (no time of birth known) in Vilna, Lithuania.

Sun, Venus and Uranus in Capricorn, Venus and Uranus conjoined. Saturn in Aquarius. Here we have Uranus ruler of Aquarius in Capricorn, and Saturn ruler of Capricorn in Aquarius - mutual reception - which astrologers contend stengthens and blends the energies of both planets and signs. Capricorn/Saturn - the hard, old fashioned rigidity, with Aquarius/Uranus, the forward looking social reformer - a strange blend, yet easier than some, because Saturn was traditionally ruler of Aquarius as well as Capricorn. In Mr Norman's paintings it's easy to detect influences of both these energies. Come to think of it - could there by a more apt astrological signature for Social Realism than Saturn and Uranus in mutual reception!?

Also significant is Mercury at 22 Sagittarius opposing Pluto at 21 Gemini. A dynamic pull between the communicative energies of Mercury and Gemini, coloured by the dark passionate intensity of Pluto.

Without time of birth it's not possible to know whether natal Moon was in Taurus, if born before 8pm, or Gemini, after 8pm. Gemini connects better with his need to communicate his emotions via his art.

Irving Norman died in 1989.

More information and illustrations available at the links below. Metropolis: Irving Norman's Social Surrealism


Wisewebwoman said...

Oh thanks for introducing me to this artist, T.
He reminds me of Frida Kahlo, powerful pieces based on our social (un)ease.
I would like to see an exhibition.

Twilight said...

WWW ~~~ Yes I see what you mean about Frida Kahlo. Though most of her work was very personal - about her own tribulations, whereas Irving Norman's concentrates purely on the plight of all people in the modern world.

I'd like to see an exhibition too.
Now I know his name I'll be watching for one to visit OKC. :-)

anthonynorth said...

I've never come across him before but his art is stunning. I like it.
I wonder what it was about artists/writers and the Spanish Civil War? So many of them went. But isn't war contrary to their beliefs?

Twilight said...

Hi AN ~~~ I think the reason so many went to fight in the Spanish Civil War was to protest against fascism in the strongest way possible. That seems to have been Irving Norman's motivation. He came back deeply distressed by what he'd seen and experienced.
It was then that war became contrary to his beliefs, I suppose.

I found this at questia

The men who went to Spain came out of a radical
subculture that emerged in the era of the Depression and
the New Deal. This radicalism was a native plant, but it
was also nourished from abroad. For in the thirties the
menace of fascism was spreading like a cancer across
Europe, and this gave an international aspect to many
domestic problems. The threat of fascism to intellectuals,
students, unionists, liberals, and leftists was so real that
many came to believe it could only be stopped in open
combat; the Americans who went to Spain sincerely felt
that if reaction were not stopped in that country, eventually
they would have to take up arms against fascism here at

Perhaps only older Americans now remember how pure
seemed the cause of the Spanish Republic in the late
thirties. Here was a legally elected government battling
against a group of reactionary rebel generals who wished
to do away with democracy and social reform. Here was
a Republic kept from buying arms to defend itself by the
Western democracies, while the governments of Hitler and
Mussolini rushed men and material to aid its foes. It is
no wonder that the struggle of the Spanish Republic for
life came to symbolize the stand of everything that was
good and just and decent in the Western tradition against
the onslaught of barbarism and evil. Such a view may be
overly simple, but it was exactly this view which sent
thousands of foreign volunteers to Spain and caused mil­
lions to applaud their actions.