THE ART OF NORMAN ROCKWELL

Norman Rockwell - Country Doctor

Country Doctor,Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post story illustration April 12, 1947.

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THE ART OF NORMAN ROCKWELL | View Collection

Girl Reading the Post - The Art of Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Girl Reading the Post, 1941. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 1, 1941. From the collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. © 1941 SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.

American Magazines and the Power of Published Art | View Collection

Humor and wit were central aspects of Norman Rockwell’s character. From his first Saturday Evening Post cover, Boy with Baby Carriage, in 1916 to his thematic No Swimming paintings to The Gossips, Rockwell filled a societal niche by providing levity during times of great strife. As Pablo Picasso noted, “the purpose of art is washing the dust of daily life off our souls.” Through two World Wars, the Great Depression, civil rights struggles, and the wars in Korea and Vietnam, Norman Rockwell’s paintings presented Americans with a window into a more idyllic world.

Though Rockwell is often regarded for paintings that addressed serious issues occurring at the moment of their creation, a great deal of Rockwell’s oeuvre is reflective of his sense of humor and natural playfulness.

Perhaps the works most reflective of this quality are found in Rockwell’s covers for The Saturday Evening Post. From 1916 to 1963, given the latitude to devise his own scenarios for the covers, Rockwell often chose to spotlight amusing situations. Before the Shot depicts a young patient scrutinizing his doctor’s medical license prior to receiving an injection. The knowing glances cast in the Just Married drawing in this gallery leaves little to the imagination. No Swimming (in the adjacent gallery) depicts a prim young lady averting her eyes from a pond filled with disrobed young men.

Cherished for his ability to touch the hearts of people of all ages, Rockwell allowed Americans to smile during difficult times. Cognizant of the barrage of gloomy headlines from newspapers and radio, he chose to aid millions of Americans in a way no one else could. 81 of the 83 Post covers painted by Rockwell during the span of the Great Depression were filled with overt messages of optimism, hope, and humor. With a wink and a nod, Norman Rockwell proved he was the right man in the right place at the right time.

War News - Art of Norman Rockwell

War News, Norman Rockwell. 1945. Oil on canvas, 41 ¼ x 40 ½” Unpublished From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. ©1945 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.

World War II and the American Homefront | View Collection

Distant from the activities of the war raging in Europe, Norman Rockwell was challenged to record his interpretation of the effects of World War II on servicemen, and on Americans at home. For Rockwell, an unassuming fictional private named Willie Gillis told the story of one man’s army in a series of eleven published (and one unpublished) Saturday Evening Post covers, in which he was depicted doing everything from proudly receiving a care package from home to peeling potatoes and reading the hometown news. Rockwell met his Willie Gillis model, Robert Otis “Bob” Buck, at an Arlington, Vermont square dance. Then fifteen years of age, Buck was exempt from the draft, but anxious to enlist, he eventually began his service in 1943 as a naval aviator in the South Seas. The name Willis Gillis was coined by Rockwell’s wife, Mary Barstow Rockwell, an avid reader who drew inspiration from the story of Wee Gillis, a 1938 book about an orphan boy by Munro Leaf. The first published painting in Rockwell’s Willie Gillis series, this lighthearted portrayal of hungry servicemen marching in step was clearly appreciated by Post readers, who inquired after Willie’s welfare and scrutinized the cover closely enough to observe that Rockwell had not actually placed sufficient postage on the package for sending.  Enlargements of the Willie Gillis covers were distributed by the USO to be posted in USO clubs in the United States and overseas, and in railway-station and bus-terminal lounges.

No Swimming - Art of Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), No Swimming, 1921. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, June 4, 1921. From the collection of Norman Rockwell Museum. © 1921 SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.

Images of Childhood in the U.S.A. | View Collection

The term “Rockwellian” has been used to denote a wo