Paintings by Irving Norman: The Measure of All Things

By Patricia Junker




I. Norman was born Irving Noachowitz in 1906 in the city of Vilna when it was still under the control of the Russian Czar. Vilna became part of Poland at the end of World War I, which is why the artist declared his place of birth as Poland when he applied for American citizenship in 1923 (see videotaped interview with the artist, March 1988, Archives of American Art [AAA], Smithsonian Institution). Norman states that when he first began to study and practice art seriously, he lied about his date of birth -- giving it consistently as 1910 -- as he assumed that younger artists would have an advantage in competing for scholarships and prizes. Setting the record straight in the 1988 video interview, he declared, "This is the only thing that has been bothering my conscience."

2. Alfred Frankenstein, [Review of Phoenix Gallery Exhibition], San Francisco Chronicle, 1977, clipping in Irving and Hela Norman Papers, AAA, microfilm roll 4911, frame 348.

3. Irving Norman, quoted in Marian Zailian, "Irving Norman's Art Published," Marin Independent-Journal, Saturday, 6 November 1954.

4. A detailed study of the experiences of Americans in the Lincoln Brigade, which includes lengthy discussion of Irving Norman's participation, is in Peter N. Carroll, The Odyssey of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade: Americans in the Spanish Civil War (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1994), 337-338.

5. Irving Norman, quoted in Hela Norman, "Irving Norman, Social Surrealist," Irving Norman, Social Surrealist, exh. brochure (Santa Cruz, Calif.: Mary Porter Sesnon Art Gallery, Porter College, University of California, Santa Cruz), n.p.

6. Ibid.

7. Ibid.

8. AAA video interview, 1988.

9. Ibid.

10. Interview with Gundlach and Freeman, 1983, transcript, 13.

11. The artist included War and Peace in an exhibition of monumental paintings held in the Student Lounge, Long Island University, Brooklyn, New York, May 1967.

12. I am grateful to Renée Dreyfus, curator of ancient art, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, for bringing this source to my attention. The storm god's horned helmet, as it appears in relief sculpture, is similar to that worn by Norman's warrior, suggesting that Norman was conversant with the iconography.

13. Irving Norman, in interview with Gundlach and Freeman, 1983, transcript, 16.

14. Irving Norman, in interview with Gunlach and Freeman, 1983, transcript, 9.

15. Ibid., 11.

-- Abridged from the accompanying exhibition catalogue.


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