At the age of 21, Rockwell moved to New Rochelle, New York, a community that housed a sizable colony of successful illustrators including the Leyendecker brothers, Coles Phillips and Howard Chandler Christy. There, Rockwell set up a studio with cartoonist Clyde Forsythe. During this period of his career, Rockwell produced work for such well-known magazines as Life, Literary Digest and Country Gentleman. In 1916, at the age of 22, Rockwell’s first cover for The Saturday Evening Post appeared, a commission then considered to be the pinnacle of achievement for an illustrator. Over the next 47 years, Rockwell produced 322 covers for the Post. In 1916, he married Irene O’Connor, a marriage that ended in divorce in 1930.
In 1930, he married Mary Barstow. They had three sons: Jarvis, Thomas and Peter. The family moved to Arlington, Vermont in 1939.
In 1943, while still in Arlington, Rockwell created a series of paintings based on Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s concept of the Four Freedoms. The paintings were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post alongside essays by famous thinkers of the day. The series was enormously popular and ultimately toured the United States in an exhibition sponsored by the Post and the Treasury Department. At each of the sixteen cities in the tour, war bonds were sold. The exhibition raised more than $130 million for the war effort, primarily in small denomination bonds.
The Rockwell family moved from West Arlington to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953. Six years later, Mary Barstow Rockwell died. My Adventures as an Illustrator, a work Rockwell wrote in collaboration with his son, Tom, was published in 1960. The Saturday Evening Post excerpted portions of the book in a series of articles, one of which featured the famous Triple Self-Portrait.
Rockwell’s third marriage took place in 1961 to Mary (Molly) Punderson. Two years later, Rockwell ended his long association with The Saturday Evening Post. In 1964, his first Look magazine illustrations appeared. The eight-year association with Look allowed Rockwell to paint pictures illustrating some of his deepest concerns, including the civil rights movement and the war on poverty.
In 1973, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his artistic legacy and placed it under the custodianship of the Old Corner House in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. This trust forms the core of the permanent collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. In 1976, Rockwell placed his Stockbridge studio and all its contents in trust to the museum. The next year, Rockwell was presented with perhaps his highest honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country.”
He died peacefully at home in Stockbridge on November 8, 1978.
These books are recommended for students and teachers to use to learn more about Norman Rockwell and his work. They are usually available in most public libraries, or may be purchased through museum customer service by calling (800)- 742-9450.