Peter Schjeldahl recounts how he became “the first hip young art critic” to defend the illustrator:
My tipping point regarding Rockwell had come in conversation with Willem de Kooning. Our greatest modern painter quite adored Rockwell – as he did most things about the United States since arriving here, as a 22-year-old Dutch stowaway, in 1926. … [Rockwell] drew and painted angelically, with subtle technical ingenuity, involving layered colors, that is still under-appreciated. I took instruction on this point from de Kooning, who opened a book to a reproduction, handed me a magnifying glass, and made me peruse Rockwell’s minuscule but almost fiercely animated painterly touch. “See?” said de Kooning. “Abstract Expressionism!” [Biographer Deborah] Solomon reports that de Kooning remarked of Rockwell’s astonishing imitation of a Pollock drip painting, being viewed by a fancy gent in “The Connoisseur” (1962), “Square inch by square inch, it’s better than Jackson!”
Previous Dish on Rockwell here.