I have always liked this painting by Norman Rockwell, and like many of Rockwell’s paintings, it reflects a deep psychological insight in ordinary surroundings and everyday occurrences.
Its a masterfully executed painting and evokes sentiment – we all feel a bit sorry for the old chap…. but it has also scared me. Replace the nice antique clerk’s desk with a computer and a gray cubicle and the fate of many an American male.
Rockwell’s picture is unique in that it depicts a lowly clerk; A man who might have started out life with a sense of optimism, but not only has he not lived his dreams, he hasn’t even found material success either. That is rarely covered in popular culture today – the “typical’ movie has a man who finds big success in finance, or some other profession, feels emptiness and then suffers some change. But most of the time, it is this bleak gray existence of man who has not found success anywhere that is the problem.
Rockwell also made a painting of young boy reading books of adventure:
I think most all men can understand the link between these two pictures – the young, earnest boy, eagerly pouring over an exciting story, to the worn out clerk watching the clock and dreaming of adventure. What happened along the way?
His face reflects one of apathy, subservience, softness, but somewhere in his heart he still yearns for adventure, but he doesn’t have the will or the courage to ever go beyond a day dream. That is the saddest picture of all.