"Lincoln for the Defense," Norman Rockwell, 1961.

"Lincoln for the Defense (detail)," Norman Rockwell, 1961. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL. Currently on view in the Norman Rockwell Museum traveling exhibition "American Chronicles: The Art of Norman Rockwell."

Presidents Day
Monday, February 22, 2012

By George, it’s that time of year again! Presidents Day, celebrated on the third Monday of February, honors the birthday of George Washington, the first President of the United States. Today the holiday frequently serves to honor the achievements of other past presidents, including Abraham Lincoln (whose birthday falls on February 12).

As America’s favorite illustrator, Norman Rockwell got “presidential” on several occasions, painting portraits of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Ronald Reagan (the artist was also fond of illustrating scenes referencing Lincoln). He also illustrated presidential themes, including Kennedy’s Peace Corps, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms.

This President’s Week, stop by Norman Rockwell Museum to reflect on these past achievements—politically and artistically. A new portraits gallery includes Rockwell’s paintings of Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard Nixon, and a pencil on paper portrait of President Lyndon B. Johnson. His portrait of President John F. Kennedy  can be found in our exhibition of original Saturday Evening Post cover tear sheets (October 29, 1960, and reprinted as a memorial on December 14, 1963).

Of course The Four Freedoms hang in their own majestic gallery, where visitors can meditate on their enduring values.Here’s a fun photo discovered last year of Rockwell meeting President Franklin Delano Roosevelt three years prior to painting The Four Freedoms! The photo shows the artist (along with son Jarvis) presenting an original painting to the President for the Children’s Crusade for Children, a movement to collect money for the relief of child refugees in war-stricken areas.

For his contributions to American culture, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Gerald Ford in 1977. The artist remains relevant, with his original paintings for Statue of Liberty proudly hanging in the White House’s Oval Office (read story here).

Read here about the exhibition of Rockwell’s The Problem We All Live WIth in the White House last year.