Norman Rockwell

September 20 - January 3, 2010



Additional images


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Cousin Reginald Plays Pirates, 1917, oil on canvas on board, 30 x 30 inches, signed lower right. Country Gentleman cover, November 3, 1917. LNM #C41. © 2009 National Museum of American Illustration Newport RI Photos courtesy Archives of American Illustrators Gallery NYC)


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Breakfast Table Political Argument (oil study), 1948, oil on acetate on board, 10 1/4 x 11 inches, signed lower right and inscribed, "To Herb Herrick, Sincerely, Norman Rockwell". Saturday Evening Post cover oil study, October 30, 1948. study for America, illus 134. study for LNM #C445. © 2009 National Museum of American Illustration Newport RI Photos courtesy Archives of American Illustrators Gallery NYC © 2009 Saturday Evening Post covers by SEPS, Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis

The 1948 Presidential Election was to mark a turning point for the Republican Party, as the Democratic Party seemed weak and unstable. This painting reflects the battle of Thomas Dewey versus Harry Truman for President of the United States. The husband, dressed in a suit for work, shouts fiercely at his wife who pouts sullenly and stubbornly with folded arms, across from him. The husband points sharply at a magazine cover showing his support for Dewey, while his wife clearly supports Truman. Both are so involved in the debate over their candidates that neither seems to pay any attention to the upset child at their feet or the hungry dog in the corner. The studies for Breakfast Table Political Argument are both witty and charming in their depiction of a suburban American lifestyle. It is a classic example of Rockwell's traditionally entertaining approach to the world around him, however fierce the characters.)


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), The Runaway - Runaway Boy and Clown, 1922, oil on canvas, 36 x 24 inches, signed lower right. Life magazine cover , June 1, 1922. LNM# C119.

The Runaway shows Rockwell's ongoing interest in using a palette with broad, rich colors and thick impasto in the fashion of the Old Masters. Compare this work to those with the limited palette employed in earlier Post illustrations. A different, more painterly approach gave him the ability to create with more detail with stronger shade and shadows, and a fully completed background. The fatherly clown offers tender consolation to the terrified boy, with tears on each cheek, albeit pictured with a smiling clown's face. In spite of his fears, the boy believed in the circus as a refuge from the real world, school, homework, and chores, yet he suddenly longs for home. He had dreams of an idyllic haven with wild animals and exotic travel, a life full of excitement and amusement, all but dispelled by the unforeseen dangers and frightening challenges. A photographic portrait of Rockwell's painting The Runaway was featured in a Devoe Artists' Materials advertisement in 1923. It shows a Rembrandt reproduction hanging in the background, perhaps stimulating and reinforcing Rockwell's classical style and technique in this picture.)


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Threading the Needle, 1922, oil on canvas, 25 1/2 x 20 1/2 inches, signed lower right, Saturday Evening Post , April 8, 1922 cover. LNM #C235. Inv 663

Threading the Needle is prototypical of Rockwell's early Saturday Evening Post covers. For his covers he used a design system that focused on a single, central item surrounded by an abstracted, simple white background. The cover's job was to sell magazines and Rockwell intuitively realized that meant to 'tell a whole story with a single image.' He characteristically obscured parts of the well-known title font with the image, to make his images appear to be three-dimensional. Early Post covers had the magazine name above two thick, horizontal black lines with the publication date and price in red between the lines. Only Rockwell could get away with such a blatant act of putting the art work in a more important position than the name of the magazine -- it was heretical. Rockwell's work and the Post itself were ubiquitous and everyone recognized the Post even with its name obliterated. The model for this cover, Dave Campion, offered himself as a perfect Rockwell type with his lanky, lean physique. In fact he was so popular that the artist used him over again for Post covers and in advertisements.


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Cousin Reginald Plays Pirates, 1917, oil on canvas on board, 30 x 30 inches, signed lower right, Country Gentleman , November 3, 1917 cover. The Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia, fig. 1-14, p. 16. LNM# C41)


(above: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), April Fools - Girl With Shopkeeper, 1948, oil on canvas, 18 x 17 inches, signed lower center right, Saturday Evening Post cover , April 3, 1948. Buechner, illus. 429 © Curtis Publishing Company. LNM# C442

This cover was one of only three April Fool's covers Rockwell painted for the Saturday Evening Post. In this image, a young girl has entered an antique shop and is talking to the shopkeeper amid the various oddities. The scene contains almost sixty jokes that Rockwell included for the viewer to discover. Some you can spot at once, such as Rockwell's signature written backwards and spelled incorrectly; while others are much more difficult to find, such as the portrait of Abraham Lincoln in a Confederate uniform. This cover remains one of the most popular from the Saturday Evening Post because it exhibits Rockwell's wonderful sense of humor as well as his masterful artistic talent and attention to detail.

Note: descriptive text from object labels.

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