Norman Rockwell

September 20 - January 3, 2010



Object labels from the exhibition

Oil on canvas; 24" x 16", signed lower left "N P Rockwell"
Recreation cover, May 1916
American Illustrators Gallery, NYC
Rockwell's three covers for Recreation magazine are somewhat unusual because they appear in full color unlike the Country Gentleman, Saturday Evening Post or Youth's Companion covers of the same period. The covers, similar in style and content to Boy's Life magazine illustrations, feature popular outdoor activities. This early cover painted when Norman was just 22 years old, includes the date and his middle initial "P" for Perceval, which Norman dropped the very next year. Rockwell's signature style of his later covers is noticeably absent from this work, but it does show his early interest in a painterly style.
1917, oil on canvas
24 1/4" X 19 1/4", signed lower right
Leslie's Magazine cover , January 11, 1917
LNM# C90
Inv 1177
A popular periodical, Leslie's Illustrated Weekly, published the painting Fact and Fiction showing Rockwell's early style as his illustration career was launched. While his early Saturday Evening Post covers usually featured children, the six covers he painted for Leslie's focused primarily on adult situations. This particular image presents another Rockwell-created dichotomy ­ the universal balance between young and old. While these persons seemingly have no interest in one another, chances are that they might have had interests as youths meeting on the same train, given similar circumstances. The 'elder' is depicted as worn-out, perhaps a doctor with a black leather bag, obviously reading a 'used' newspaper. The 'younger' anxiously sits on the train holding her novel to her chest, clearly forlorn and wistful. As scruffy and uncaring as the 'elder' seems, the 'younger' fashionably presents her with considered accoutrement -- elaborate make-up, furs, flowers and jewelry. As Rockwell's career progressed, he illustrated fewer covers for other publications and focused almost entirely on the Saturday Evening Post.
1917, oil on canvas on board
30" x 30", signed lower right
Country Gentleman , November 3, 1917 cover
The Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia, fig. 1-14, p. 16
LNM# C41
1918, oil on canvas
26 1/4" x 22", signed lower right
Judge Magazine cover , June 1, 1918
LNM# C85
Inv 870
1922, oil on canvas
36" x 24", 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.
1922, oil on canvas
25 1/2" x 20 1/2", 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.
1925, oil on canvas
32" x 26 1/2", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post , February 7, 1925
Fisk Tire Company, automobile tire advertisement,1925
LNM# A310
During the early 1920's, the Fisk Tire Company published a series of advertisements by Norman Rockwell which capitalized on the double meaning of Fisk's "Time to Re-Tire" slogan. Rockwell enjoyed painting this series saying it allowed him "the freedom to originate my own ideas," which he said was "half the fun of painting." Old Man With Shopping Basket demonstrates Rockwell's use of "outsider" characters during the twenties, when he began to incorporate sheriffs, hobos, and circus performers into his illustrations. Rockwell's portrayal of this character remains sympathetic. He added a touching element of humanity and humor as the man hides behind the Fisk sign to avoid being hit by snowballs. In orchestrating this scene, Rockwell is still considerate of his client's purpose. Rockwell also uses a 'Double Entendre' as he ingeniously incorporates selling new tire treads.
1928, oil on canvas
30" x 26", signed lower right
Inv 727
Young Valedictorian is a rare Norman Rockwell painting for it is one of his few, unpublished works. There is neither irony nor humor present; it is simple matter of fact coupled with a certain tenderness. Although it is not known why it went unpublished, the painting remains an important and revealing example of Rockwell's development during the 1920s. It, like The Runaway, looks as if it had been painted by a European Old Master and not by an American illustrator. However, this painting does not surprise those familiar with Rockwell's ambidextrous technical abilities, his stylistic treatment of subjects, or the various stages of his career. Others are astounded that the same artist could paint such a rich painting while working simultaneously on others as diametrically different as Threading the Needle (1922).
This work particularly demonstrates Rockwell's incredible facility with a paintbrush. He could bring extraordinary talent in almost any style or period of fine art to the canvas at will, depending upon client and assignment.
1929, oil on canvas
28" x 23", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post, December 14, 1929
Inv 1554
1930, oil on canvas
44 1/4" x 34 1/4", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post , December 6, 1930 cover
LNM #C320
Inv 185
The Medieval knight is painted with related compositional elements which each reinforce this image's historical context. Some defining elements are the stilted Gothic arched window, the Knight's armor, and the title 'Christmas' in a medieval-style font, Rockwell often drew from historical sources for inspiration and certainly one of his greatest professional strengths was a devotion to accuracy. A stilted arch is also seen in the Choir Boy, where Rockwell draws from ecclesiastical architecture to stage the image. In this picture, the white background serves to make the 'watch night' (Knight) appear colder against the snuggly warmth and cheer within. The comfortable holiday revelers are apparently readying to feast while the lone guard is thrown asunder 'to do his job.' It is almost heart wrenching to note the warm interior glow reflecting on the knight's freezing face as he dutifully and longingly witnesses the holiday spirit of others.
1931, oil on canvas
41" x 31", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post cover , March 28, 1931
Buechner, illus. 265 © Curtis Publishing Company
LNM #C322
Inv 693
The Volunteer Fireman was Rockwell's first and only attempt to create a painting by using Dynamic Symmetry. This is an ancient Greek and Roman method for designing art and architecture with a proportional grid system derived from natural geometric relationships. Rockwell had two idols, the early Post cover illustrator JC Leyendecker, whom he called "The Master of the Magazine Cover," and the great illustrator of romance and fantasy images, Maxfield Parrish, who used this design system frequently. Rockwell understood the system and was impressed with the outcomes achieved by Parrish. He tried it on this seminal work, but later declared it "difficult and time-consuming." On the other hand, he used many of Leyendecker's techniques and even subject matter for his cover work.
This painting portrays an eager young volunteer whose adrenaline drive is the pure excitement of fire. He runs in stark contrast to the veteran whose experience leaves him determined to succeed in the face of danger, wholly unfazed by the naive youth's heroic ambitions, nor the dog along for the ride.
1934, oil on canvas, 39" x 24",
Study for Coca-Cola advertisement and calendar, 1934
Study for #A196
1936, oil on canvas
37" x 29", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post, May 30, 1936 cover
LNM# C355
Spring Tonic is one of Rockwell's few early Post covers where he painted the entire background rather than his traditional white background. In 1935, Rockwell was commissioned to illustrate The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; he anxiously wanted this commission and left almost immediately for Hannibal, Missouri in order to absorb local ambience. He completed the artwork for deluxe book editions and they were widely beloved thereafter for his popular and much lauded illustrations. A World Book Encyclopedia article described Rockwell's images of Mark Twain's folks as "the people who live in everybody's home town, barefoot teenage boys in particular." Rockwell recreated his earlier Mark Twain book illustration, albeit making slight changes, perhaps for copyright reasons. The cover shows Aunt Polly giving Tom Sawyer his tonic, whilst the befuddled cat looks at the young hero. The composition clearly influenced his later painting Tender Years -- Treating a Cold, (1957) where an elderly couple, the husband wrapped in a patch-work blanket is seen in a nearly identical pose as that of the woman and child in Spring Tonic.
1937, charcoal on paper
29" x 20", signed lower right
Reader's Digest: 1937 Christmas Gift Subscription Card
LNM# A686
1944, oil on board
13 1/2" x 23 1/2", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post , July 15, 1944
'Norman Rockwell Visits a Ration Board' pp. 22-23
Inv 1664
Norman Rockwell was one of the many artists to partake in the effort to document WWII. While short-lived, the Ration Board regulated and allocated the purchases of foodstuffs such as flour and sugar, as well as gasoline and other items of necessity. Only small amounts of these items in short supply could be purchased in order to conserve resources, and to be fair to all. The controls Government imposed were exercised through coupon books and ration coins -- a new currency minted for this purpose. Rockwell placed himself in the painting at far left with pipe in mouth, next in line after the gentleman to his left, a neighbor from Arlington, Vermont. All other figures are models from Manchester, Vermont, the nearest Ration Board to his hometown.
This painting is an example of an interior Saturday Evening Post illustration. Interior illustrations were meant to carry a reader through a magazine article or book. They were created to enhance and augment the text, as opposed to the cover illustrations which were meant to sell the book or periodical by capturing a customer's attention with an eye-catching image. The Post editors praised this painting as a scene from history, that some day would be forgotten.
1946, oil paint over photographic base
14 1/2 x 11 in., Signed "Norman Rockwell" bottom
right, inscribed "To Morgan Harding sincerely
Norman Rockwell" on the mat
Saturday Evening Post , April 6, 1946 cover
From Rockwell on Rockwell: "It just came to me. I think I have always wanted to paint a charwoman or some similar type of worker -- the poor little drudge who has to tidy up after more fortunate people have had a good timeHaving decided on this charwomen subject and that the theatre is a logical setting, I made my little idea sketch... I decided to go to an actual theatre to obtain authentic information on such things as seats and aisles... I went to the office of the Shubert Theatres in New York... The Physical Properties Manager felt that the Majestic Theatre, where Carousel was playing, was typical, so we decided on that. A minor hitch came when I learned that just to turn on the lights would cost about forty dollars... After considerable negotiation, a way was found to reduce this force to one electrician and his assistant. With this adjusted, off we went to the Majestic, where I sketched and measured while a photographer took some pictures -- one never knows how much information he may need when he gets to work far from his original source... Then back I hurried to Arlington where two neighbors, Mrs. Harvey McKee and Mrs. Charles Crofut, posed as the charwomen. I felt hesitant about asking them to represent such humble characters, but they were very good sports about it." - NR
1948, oil on canvas
18" x 17", 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.
1948, oil on canvas
46 1/2" x 38 1/2", signed lower left
Saturday Evening Post cover , May 15, 1948
The composition for The Bridge Game was particularly challenging for it is a one-point perspective, aerial view. Each card player's hand is simultaneously exposed for the benefit of bridge-playing aficionados/viewers. Rockwell knew nothing about the game and required the help of a bridge expert and a wooden plank in order to undertake this work. The long plank was nailed to the balcony floor over his photographer's studio while the card expert arranged the four card hands. The plank hung over a table posed with four models holding the cards assembled by 'Red', Rockwell's locally (Chicago) selected bridge expert. The artist then asked the photographer to venture out to the plank's edge to take a bird's-eye shot 'straight down' for his use in creating the cover image. The exposure of all card players' hands at once, as if from a secret casino security room above the players, was Rockwell's notion, albeit before such observation rooms existed.
1948, oil on acetate on board
10 1/4" x 11", signed lower right and inscribed, "To
Herb Herrick, Sincerely, Norman Rockwell"
Saturday Evening Post, October 30, 1948 cover oil study
Study for America, illus 134
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.
1950, oil on canvas
33" x 31", unsigned
Saturday Evening Post, cover study , April 29, 1950
Inv 1607
This study is the quintessential example of Norman Rockwell's devotion and commitment to every aspect of creating a Saturday Evening Post cover. This monochromatic study presented many challenges; the most difficult was painting a nearly lit room as seen through a dark room. This work exhibits his lifelong fascination with the Old Masters, in this case, Vermeer. The artist worked steadily over a three-month period with gloomy weather, each day cloudier than before. Rockwell began to consider his work a failure until he finally found a way, during a break in the weather, to get the sharp contrasts he wanted to capture in the painting. He ultimately succeeded in getting exactly what he sought by creating a collage from his sketches and photos. His final efforts paid off and he created one of his most notable paintings. Depicting an after-hours moment, a few local men gather in an adjoining room to the barbershop to play music and relax after a long day. The main character in this painting is the barbershop itself, a living entity of another kind, it heralds simple down home American music-making.
1950, oil on canvas
27" X 25", signed lower left
Saturday Evening Post cover , August 19, 1950
LNM #C453
During the 1950's, the public continued to steadily turn to Post covers as reflections of their American way of life. As the premier magazine cover artist and visionary of our national identity, Norman Rockwell was the perfect artist to depict prototypical American figures; to wit: the traveling salesman. For this cover, Rockwell sought to dispel the myth that all commercial travelers spent their nights with an icy brew and a 'hot' woman. Many readers wrote to the Post thanking them for his touching and honest portrayal of a lonely salesman. Rockwell went on to use the theme of the traveling salesman for a Brown & Bigelow four seasons calendar. From that series, there is another classic Rockwell image of the traveling salesman selling an 'icebox' (refrigerator) to an Eskimo in the Alaskan Winter.
1952, Charcoal on paper
22 _" x 21 _", signed and inscribed lower right
Saturday Evening Post cover , August 30, 1952
LNM C462
The charcoal study for Day in the Life of a Girl shows a very expressive child going through her daily activities. Rockwell met his model, Mary Whelan, at a basketball game in which his son, Tommy, was playing. The artist later commented that she was "the best darn model I ever had, sad one minute, happy the next, and she raised her eyebrows just the right way" Mary Whelan became Norman Rockwell's favorite model, a very important figure in his paintings due to her charismatic, ever-changing face.
1954, oil on canvas
29" x 26 1/2", signed lower right and inscribed en verso 'P709'
Saturday Evening Post , April 17, 1954
Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist & Illustrator, New York, 1970, illustrated no. 482
Christopher Finch, Norman Rockwell: 332 Magazine
During the 1950s, when more than half of Rockwell's forty-one covers featured children, he made numerous references to his own childhood in his paintings, as illustrated in The Choirboy. Recalling his days in the church choir, Rockwell wrote, "On Sundays in the choir room ...The sexton, poking his head around the door, would yell that it was time for us to enter the church. Plastering down our cowlicks, pushing, jostling, we'd form two lines. Then, suddenly, we'd grow quiet and, solemn-faced, march into the church" (The Norman Rockwell Album, p. 140). Rockwell's painted version of this memory features a choirboy in hurried preparation for an Easter service. Rockwell uses a paneled archway to frame the setting and through it we glimpse the proof of last-minute preparations in the scattered clothing, sneakers, and abandoned roller skates. Such "behind-the-scenes" treatment appears throughout Rockwell's Post covers, a vantage point which allowed him to show the human side of his protagonists with humor and compassion.
1957, oil and pencil
18" x 18", signed lower right
Brown & Bigelow Four Seasons Calendar (Spring), 1957
LNM# A149
Inv 1172
1957, pencil
15" x 15", signed lower right
Brown & Bigelow Four Seasons Calendar (Spring), 1957
LNM# A149 study
Inv 1173
Rockwell created numerous calendar illustrations for Brown and Bigelow, which usually followed characters through the changing seasons of a year. Rockwell painted his "four seasons" theme for Brown & Bigelow for sixteen years, from 1948 to 1964. This example from the Tender Years series focuses on a long-married couple in their day-to-day lives, taking care of each other in a way that only a lifetime together can create.
1959 , oil on canvas
74 1/2" x 36", signed lower right
Saturday Evening Post , June 6, 1959 cover
LNM #C494
For this Post cover image, Norman Rockwell has perfectly captured the expression of a youthful college graduate with unabashed optimism, coupled with newfound bewilderment at the real world he faces. Rockwell separately provided a background for the finished cover which comprised of newspaper headlines screaming contemporary problems to be shouldered by this young grad and his generation. The headlines ranged from Russia's "Khrushchev Warns West of War Danger" to "UN Atom Study Panel Sees Fall-Out Peril." "Inflation Number-One Problem," "State officials to Seek US Help for Job Woes" are all problems similarly faced today for young graduates. Here Rockwell's son, Peter, poses for this near life-size portrait as the boy graduate. The publication added another contrast between its readers optimism symbolized by a graduation ceremony versus the troubles facing the world into which graduates entered in 1959. The magazine cover had now delved into the political realm.
1960, oil on posterboard
30" x 31", signed lower right
Brown and Bigelow Four Seasons Calendar/Winter, 1960
LNM #A160
"Calendars present a different problem than advertising, illustrations or covers. Since they are intended to be lived with, to be hung on the wall for twelve months, the ideas must not be too new, strong or startling. So you must try to make up for this limitation by the use of color and action. Often such pictures are most effective if they show people doing things which the beholder or someone he knows might also do." -Norman Rockwell
For Rockwell's 1960 Brown & Bigelow Calendar, he chose to illustrate a shopkeeper and his young apprentice carrying out tasks in the General Store throughout the various seasons. The four seasons are illustrated as Winter, taking inventory, Spring, going fishing, Summer, taking a nap on the porch, and Autumn, cleaning the stove.
1960, charcoal, gouache, and oil on board
13 1/2" x 10 1/2", signed and inscribed lower
right "My best to Jack Connors, sincerely, Norman Rockwell"
Saturday Evening Post cover study , February 13, 1960
Study for LNM #C496
Rockwell's Triple Self-Portrait is one of the most famous self-portraits ever created. Artists inspired by Rockwell's creativity and wit have replicated and emulated this image many times over in advertisements by Sunday painters and copyist and in uncounted poster images with variations on his theme. This study concept was earmarked for use on the cover of the Post issue, which was intended to herald the launching of Rockwell's autobiography on February 13, 1960. The book was serialized in the Post over several issues. The study shows Rockwell's thought process leading up to the finished cover design. Around the self-portrait study is a virtual collage of all the chapter headings in his book as published by Doubleday entitled, My Adventures as an Illustrator. It was released simultaneously with the Post magazine serialization.
1962, oil on canvas
34" x 32", signed lower left
Saturday Evening Post , November 3, 1962 cover
Buechner, p. 576
LNM# C506
Norman Rockwell conceived of this Post cover after visiting the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, MA, where he viewed one of the world's most extensive collections of armor and weapons. The austerity of the museum's Medieval Great Hall is playfully interrupted in this humorous scene. A horse directs its impossibly animated and censorious stare at the museum guard, who is relaxing on the pedestal. The guard has even treated the armor as an impromptu coat rack, while remaining contentedly unaware of his audience. Light streaming in from the peaked Gothic windows acts as a spotlight on the guard's breach of museum decorum.
1964, tempera on board
11 5/8" x 19 7/8", signed lower right
Look Magazine, study for story illustration, January 14, 1964
LNM #S400b
1964, gouache on paper
13" x 21" , signed lower right
Look Magazine , January 14, 1964
This work is a study for the finished oil, The
Problem We All Live With (Walking to School)
(Schoolgirl with US Marshals), reproduced in
January 14, 1964 issue of Look Magazine.
The finished oil painting for The Problem We All Live With was published in the January 14, 1964 issue of Look magazine. Rockwell's composition accurately depicts a significant moment in history as a young girl is marched into school by headless government officials. His decision to crop the men at their shoulders brings more emphasis to the courageous child, Ruby Bridges, walking to her New Orleans elementary school on the first day of desegregation. In the first study, Rockwell depicted the U.S. Marshals, but in front of the little girl, however as his idea developed, he added two more Marshals behind her. Rockwell's socially aware Look had an untold affect on his audience. He depicted serious questions of societal change and in many ways awakened the nation to important issues of substance and debate. For the first time, he painted civil rights and human-interest images without his classic ironic, humorous subjects.
Oil on canvas; 17" x 25," signed and inscribed lower right
Look magazine, June 14, 1966, pp. 36-37
1966, pencil and brown varnish on tissue paper mounted on illustration board
8" x 12 1/4", signed and inscribed lower right: 'sincerely, Norman Rockwell'
Look magazine study for story illustration in, June
"A new plow, not very special to us, can mean a new land for these Ethiopian farmers. A little help, competent but not always expert, is often all it takes to break through centuries of arrested progress in fields where agriculture is almost Biblical. A little knowledge, some simple skills and a lot of patience are the Peace Corps' stock in trade."
A dramatic decision to illustrate works documenting President John F. Kennedy's 1961 Peace Corps permitted Norman Rockwell to share brilliant images of this inspiring enterprise designed to change the world. Rockwell traveled to Ethiopia and India interacting with young Peace Corps volunteers. Although elderly, he took it seriously when Kennedy said "the energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light out country and all who serve it -- and the glow from that fire can truly light the world." In this Ethiopian scene, a Peace Corps volunteer shows a villager the merits of the plow. One witnesses the "glow" with Kennedy said would "light the world," almost religiously shining on the African and American. Look magazine later sent Rockwell to Russia in 1967 to illustrate their classrooms, this turned out to be amongst the most exciting commission in his illustrious and much heralded career.
1968, oil on panel
10 1/2" x 18 1/2", signed and inscribed lower right on mat
Look Magazine, August 20, 1968
by: Color sketch for "The Right To Know" pp. 48-49
Associated with the Post for nearly half a century, Norman Rockwell terminated his relationship in 1963 signaling the end of an era for Rockwell, the Post and for 'The Golden Age of Illustration.' Not intending to retire, at the age of sixty-nine Rockwell began to illustrate for Look magazine, extending his career for nearly another decade. At Look, his focus changed from that of entertainment to one of journalistic purpose as he painted themes of political and social significance. Education, peace, politics, space voyages to the moon and racial strife were among the selected themes. Major social issues of great interest erupted more and more frequently during the 1960s. The space Look series of illustrations are further distinguished by the artist's use of a more brilliant palette and increasingly realistic detail. Rockwell's last illustration commissioned for Look magazine, Audobon Observing the Passenger Pigeon, was published on October 19, 1971.


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