It’s a warm summer day and the cool breeze hits the droplets of water from the pool on his skin but all he can feel is terror. Everyone else had been diving off the high dive; it couldn’t be that difficult! But now up there, 20 feet high, peering over the precipice, the young man is stricken with fear. Too afraid to take the plunge below, too afraid to move back from the edge and go back down the long metal stairs. Norman Rockwell’s High Dive was featured as the cover of the Saturday Evening Post cover on August 16, 1947. His young son Peter was his model and he found his father’s direction to “look afraid” pretty easy to follow since he was terrified. This simple image of a boy, a diving board, and a blue sky has such a strong ability to convey terror and that was Norman Rockwell’s gift. Rockwell has the innate ability to tell a whole story by a single moment in time, facial expression, and simple objects to tell a story. The way he clearly and undeniably conveys the human condition is what makes Rockwell such a successful and enduring artist. One image and a person can picture what lead to that moment and what might possibly happen just afterwards. The elegant experienced divers that may have just jumped off the diving board before, the friends who may have teased and challenged each other, and the declaration that he isn’t too scared to jump!
The ability to easily tell a story in one image is precisely what caught the attention of collectors such as George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. High Dive, the painting, now hangs in Steven Spielberg’s office at Amblin Entertainment. “That painting spoke to me the second I saw it…I said not only is that going in my collection, but it’s going in my office so I can look at it every day of my life.” He has stated how this painting represents how he feels about every motion picture he is considering directing, just before committing to direct the movie. He was on that diving board for 11 years before he committed to directing Schindler’s List. “We’re all on diving boards, hundreds of times during our lives. Taking the plunge or pulling back from the abyss…it is something that we must face.”