Frederic Sackrider Remington (October 4, 1861 - December 26, 1909) was an
American painter, illustrator, sculptor, and writer who specialized in
depictions of the Old American West,
Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 – November 8, 1978) was a 20th
century American painter and illustrator. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal
in the United States, where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations
of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine
over more than four decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are the
Willie Gillis series, Rosie the Riveter (although his Rosie was reproduced less
than others of the day), Saying Grace (1951), and the Four Freedoms series.
Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, in New York City to Jarvis Waring and
Ann Mary Rockwell (nee Hill).
He had one brother, Jarvis Rockwell. Norman transferred from high school to the
Chase Art School at the age of 14. He then went on to the National Academy of
Design and finally to the Art Students League. There, he was taught by Thomas
Fogarty, George Bridgman, and Frank Vincent Dumond; his early works were
produced for St. Nicholas Magazine, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) publication
Boys' Life and other juvenile publications. Joseph Csatari carried on his legacy
and style for the BSA.
Scout at Ship's Wheel, 1913
In 1913, the nineteen-year old Rockwell became the art editor for Boys'
Life, published by the Boy Scouts of America, a post he held for three years
As part of that position, he painted several covers, beginning with his first
published magazine cover, Scout at Ship's Wheel, appearing on the
Boys' Life September 1913 edition.
World War I
During the First World War, he tried to enlist into the U.S. Navy but was
refused entry because, at 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 140 pounds (64 kg), he was
eight pounds underweight. To compensate, he spent one night gorging himself on
bananas, liquids and donuts, and weighed enough to enlist the next day. However,
he was given the role of a military artist and did not see any action during his
tour of duty.
Freedom of Speech
Rockwell's family moved to New
Rochelle, New York at age 21 and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde
Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe's help, he
submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916, Mother's Day
Off (published on May 20). He followed that success with Circus Barker and
Strongman (published on June 3), Gramps at the Plate (August 5), Redhead Loves
Hatty Perkins (September 16), People in a Theatre Balcony (October 14) and Man
Playing Santa (December 9). Rockwell was published eight times total on the Post
cover within the first twelve months. Norman Rockwell published a total of 321
original covers for The Saturday Evening Post over 47 years.
Rockwell's success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of
the day, most notably The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, Leslie's
Weekly, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly and Life Magazine.
Rockwell married his first wife, Irene O'Connor, in 1916. Irene was
Rockwell's model in Mother Tucking Children into Bed, published on the cover of
The Literary Digest on January 19, 1921. However, the couple divorced in 1930.
He quickly married schoolteacher Mary Barstow, with whom he had three children:
Jarvis Waring, Thomas Rhodes and Peter Barstow. The family lived in New
Rochelle, New York. Rockwell and his wife were not very religious, although they
were members of St. John's Wilmot Church, an Episcopalian church near their
home, and had their sons baptized there as well. Rockwell moved to Arlington,
Vermont in 1939 where his work began to reflect small-town life. In 1953, the
Rockwell family moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Six years later, Mary
Barstow Rockwell died unexpectedly. In 1961, Rockwell married Molly Punderson, a
World War II
The rear of Norman Rockwell's preserved studio.
In 1943, during the Second World War, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms
series, which was completed in seven months and resulted in his losing 15
pounds. The series was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which
he described four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of
Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear. The paintings were published
in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. The U.S. Treasury Department later
promoted war bonds by exhibiting the originals in 16 cities. Rockwell himself
considered "Freedom of Speech" to be the best of the four. That same year a fire
in his studio destroyed numerous original paintings, costumes, and props.
During the late 1940s, Norman Rockwell spent the winter months as
artist-in-residence at Otis College of Art and Design. Students occasionally
were models for his Saturday Evening Post covers. In 1949, Rockwell donated an
original Post cover, "April Fool," to be raffled off in a library fund raiser.
Later, in 1953, his wife Mary died unexpectedly, and Rockwell took time off
from his work to grieve. It was during this break that he and his son Thomas
produced his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, which was published
in 1960. The Post printed excerpts from this book in eight consecutive issues,
the first containing Rockwell's famous Triple Self-Portrait.
Rockwell married his third wife, retired Milton Academy English teacher,
Molly Punderson, in 1961. His last painting for the Post was published in 1963,
marking the end of a publishing relationship that had included 322 cover
paintings. He spent the next 10 years painting for Look magazine, where his work
depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration.
During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for
Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign
figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. One of his last
works was a portrait of legendary singer Judy Garland in 1969.
A custodianship of 574 of his original paintings and drawings was established
with Rockwell's help near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the museum
is still open today year round. For "vivid and affectionate portraits of our
country," Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the
United States of America's highest civilian honor.
Rockwell died November 8, 1978 of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge,
Massachusetts. First Lady Rosalynn Carter attended his funeral.
Body of work
His first Scouting calendar (1925)
Norman Rockwell was very prolific, and produced over 4,000 original works,
most of which have been either destroyed by fire or are in permanent
collections. Rockwell was also commissioned to illustrate over 40 books
including Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. His annual
contributions for the Boy Scouts' calendars between 1925 and 1976 (Rockwell was
a 1939 recipient of the Silver Buffalo Award, the highest adult award given by
the Boy Scouts of America),
were only slightly overshadowed by his most popular of calendar works: the "Four
Seasons" illustrations for
Brown & Bigelow that were published for 17 years beginning in 1947 and
reproduced in various styles and sizes since 1964. Illustrations for booklets,
catalogs, posters (particularly movie promotions), sheet music, stamps,
cards, and murals (including "Yankee Doodle Dandy", which was completed in
1936 for the Nassau Inn in
Princeton, New Jersey) rounded out Rockwell's œuvre as an illustrator.
The problem we all live with
Beyond the Easel, 1969 calendar
In 1969, as a tribute to Rockwell's 75th year birthday, officials of Brown &
Bigelow and the Boy Scouts of America asked Rockwell to pose in Beyond the
Easel, the calendar illustration that year.
Rockwell's work was dismissed by serious art critics in his lifetime. Many
of his works appear overly sweet in modern critics' eyes, especially the
Saturday Evening Post covers, which tend toward idealistic or sentimentalized
portrayals of American life— this has led to the often-deprecatory adjective "Rockwellesque."
Consequently, Rockwell is not considered a "serious painter" by some
contemporary artists, who often regard his work as bourgeois and kitsch. Writer
Vladimir Nabokov sneered that Rockwell's brilliant technique was put to "banal"
use, and wrote in his book Pnin: "That Dalí is really Norman Rockwell's twin
brother kidnapped by Gypsies in babyhood". He is called an "illustrator" instead
of an artist by some critics, a designation he did not mind, as it was what he
However, in his later years, Rockwell began receiving more attention as a
painter when he chose more serious subjects such as the series on racism for
Look magazine. One example of this more serious work is The Problem We All
Live With, which dealt with the issue of school integration. The painting
depicts a young African American girl, Ruby Bridges, flanked by white federal
marshals, walking to school past a wall defaced by racist graffiti.
In 1999, The New Yorker art critic Peter Schjeldahl said of Rockwell in ArtNews:
“Rockwell is terrific. It’s become too tedious to pretend he isn’t.”
Rockwell's work was exhibited at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 2001.
Rockwell's Breaking Home Ties sold for $15.4 million at a 2006 Sotheby’s
auction. In 2008, a twelve-city U.S. tour of Rockwell's works is
In the film Empire of the Sun, a young boy (played by Christian Bale), is put
to bed by his loving parents in a scene also inspired by a Rockwell painting—a
reproduction of which is later kept by the young boy during his captivity in a
prison camp. (Freedom from Fear, 1943).
The 1994 film Forrest Gump includes a shot in a school that re-creates
Rockwell's "Girl with Black Eye" with young Forrest in place of the girl. Much
of the film drew heavy visual inspiration from Rockwell's art.
In the film Lilo & Stitch, the end credits include a parody of Rockwell's
Thanksgiving illustration. The participants in the dinner include three aliens,
a native Hawaiian woman and child, and an African-American man. (Freedom from
The 1988 film Funny Farm featured a scheme concocted by a homeowner (played by
Chevy Chase) where redneck townsfolk are bribed to act like the characters of
Norman Rockwell's paintings to create the illusion of ideal small-town American
life, making the area more appealing to prospective buyers.
In the film The Polar Express, appears one of the Rockwells' Saturday Evening
Post covers, The Discovery (Boy Discovering Santa Suit).which dances
Film director George Lucas owns Rockwell's original of The Peach Crop, and his
colleague Steven Spielberg owns a sketch of Rockwell's Triple Self-Portrait.
Each of the artworks hangs in the respective filmmakers' workspaces. Rockwell
is a major character in an episode of Lucas’ Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,
“Passion for Life.”
In 2005, there was great controversy when Target Co. sold Marshall Field's to
Federated Department Stores and the Federated discovered a reproduction of
Rockwell's The Clock Mender, which depicted the great clocks of the Marshall
Field and Company Building on display. Rockwell had donated the painting
depicted on the cover of the November 3, 1945 Saturday Evening Post to the store
A Thanksgiving dinner scene in director Ridley Scott's 2007 film American
Gangster emulates Rockwell's classic painting "Freedom from Want".
Stand-up comedian Christopher Titus performed an one-man show early in his
career entitled "Norman Rockwell is Bleeding," which revolved around the
comedian's dysfunctional childhood and family. He chose the title based on his
experiences being at odds with the idealized images of Rockwell's works.
Scout at Ship's Wheel (1913) (first published magazine cover
Life, September 1913)
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