Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Golden Rule 1961
Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post,
April 1, 1961
Oil on canvas
44 1/2" x 39 1/2"
Norman Rockwell Art Collection

©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

n the 1960s, the mood in America was shifting, and Norman Rockwell's opportunity to challenge the claim that he was old fashioned was on the horizon. Golden Rule, a gathering of men, women, and children of different races, religions, and ethnicities, was a precursor of the socially conscious subjects that he would soon illustrate. "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You" was a simple but universal phrase that reflected the artist's personal philosophy. A citizen of the world, Rockwell traveled for work and pleasure throughout his life and was welcomed wherever he went.

I’d been reading up on comparative religion. The thing is that all major religions have the Golden Rule in Common. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Not always the same words but the same meaning.
— Norman Rockwell, The Norman Rockwell Album 1961

Rockwell compiled the document below that lists variations on the "Golden Rule" expressed by different religious traditions.
ne day I suddenly got the idea that the Golden Rule, "Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You," was the subject I was looking for. I began to make all sorts of sketches. Then I remembered that down in the cellar of my studio was the charcoal drawing of my United Nations picture, which I had never finished," Rockwell said. "In it I had tried to depict all the peoples of the world gathered together. That is just what I wanted to express about the Golden Rule."
This drawing featuring the main characters and compositional elements of Golden Rule was transferred to canvas as the guide for Rockwell's finished painting.

Click on the outlined figures to see the model...

Here is a sampling of other models' reference photos that did not appear
in the final painting
About Golden Rule

From photographs he'd taken on his 1955 round-the-world advertising campaign trip for Pan American Airlines, Rockwell referenced traditional clothing and accessories and studied how they were worn. Gathered some cultural attire and devised some from ordinary objects in his studio, even using a lampshade as a fez.

Many of Rockwell's models were local exchange students and visitors. In a 1961 interview, Rockwell said of the man wearing a wide brimmed hat in the upper right corner, "He's part Brazilian, part Hungarian, I think. Then there is Choi, [who is] Korean. He's a student at Ohio State University. Here is a Japanese student at Bennington College and here is a Jewish student. He was taking summer school courses at the Indian Hill Museum School." Pointing to the rabbi, he continued, "He's the retired postmaster of Stockbridge. He made a pretty good rabbi - in real life, a devout Catholic. I got all my Middle East faces from Abdalla who runs the Elm Street market, just one block from my house." Some of the models were from Rockwell's earlier United Nations drawing. Though it was never finished, it was going to be a "a mass of people," he said, "representing the people of the world, waiting for the delegates to straighten out the world, so that they might live in peace and without fear."

This enhanced digital experience is supported by the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS).