This weekend Norman Rockwell Museum will hold a special reunion for all former models of Norman Rockwell. To create his iconic works, the artist found help from both neighbors and family members, who posed as the subjects pictured in Rockwell’s illustrations. In anticipation of our new exhibition, Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us (opening July 13), we thought it would be fun to look at some of the work that contemporary artist Jarvis Rockwell helped create as a model for his father.
Norman Rockwell was known for his portraits, and his sons received the treatment on a number of occasions. According to Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, young Jarvis (Jerry) appeared in at least five drawings created in charcoal, pencil, and pastel on paper, and one oil on canvas that was later reproduced in the January 1941 issue of Parents’ Magazine. Most kids are used to having their photo taken by their parents, but things can be a little more ambitious when your father is an artist.
Rockwell also called on his eldest son to pose for some of his most iconic Saturday Evening Post covers, including 1939’s Marble Champion, the first cover the illustrator created after moving to Arlington, Vermont (Jarvis is the young boy in the beanie, observing the game). Other memorable covers include Saying Grace (1951); Homecoming Marine (1945); and Christmas Homecoming (1948), which is something of a family portrait featuring Norman Rockwell, his wife Mary, and sons Peter, Tom, and Jarvis (the homecoming son), among other friends and neighbors in the crowd.
After returning from the Air Force, Jarvis Rockwell continued to study art seriously, perhaps inspiring his father to create the memorable Art Critic painting in 1955. Jarvis can be seen as the inquisitive young student, carefully studying an amused Peter Paul Rubens portrait while the subjects of a Frans Hals painting looks on warily. The humorous painting was also one of Norman Rockwell’s most challenging, and he created no fewer than seventeen different versions before arriving at his final. Also worth noting: the model for the Ruben portrait is the artist’s wife Mary, mother to Jarvis.
Jarvis Rockwell also helped his father with more serious paintings, including The Long Shadow of Lincoln (story illustration, The Saturday Evening Post, 1945); and Murder in Mississippi, an intense civil rights era work that Norman Rockwell created for Look magazine in 1965. The painting, also known as Southern Justice, illustrated the true story of the June 21, 1964, murders of Michael Schwerner, Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney; three young civil rights workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Using Hector Rondon’s 1963 Pulitzer Prize-winning news photo “Aid from the Padre” as a reference, Norman Rockwell had his son Jarvis, visiting from San Francisco, pose as Schwerner. In reference photos, Jarvis is seen holding up the injured Chaney, portrayed by model Oliver McCary (Kittridge Hudson also helped pose as the wounded Goodman). For the final painting, Rockwell changed his son’s portrait to look more like the actual subject, Michael Schwerner; however Look magazine finally decided to publish the preliminary color study the artist created for the painting, something of a more impressionistic style that you imagine might have impressed his more modern art-minded son.
As a one-time model and now artist, Jarvis Rockwell continues the creative legacy of his family, while forging a path in art that is uniquely his own. Norman Rockwell Museum is proud to present a collection of the artist’s own work in Jarvis Rockwell: Maya, Illusion, and Us, on view July 13 through October 20, 2013.