Collecting Norman Rockwell

 

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) Extra Good Boys and GirlsNorman Percevel Rockwell was a 20th century American painter and illustrator. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States, where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over more than four decades.

Norman Rockwell Price Guide: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) Extra Good Boys and Girls signed ‘Norman/Rockwell’ (lower right) oil on canvas 37 x 29 in. (94 x 73.7 cm.) Painted in 1939. Sold for $2,169,000 Christies, New York Nov 2007.

Among the best-known of Rockwell’s works are the Willie Gillis series, Rosie the Riveter (although his Rosie was reproduced less than others of the day), Saying Grace (1951), and the Four Freedoms series. He is also noted for his work for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA); producing covers for their publication Boys’ Life, calendars, and other illustrations.

Norman Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, in New York City to Jarvis Waring and Ann Mary Rockwell. He had one brother, Jarvis Rockwell. Norman transferred from high school to the Chase Art School at the age of 14. He then went on to the National Academy of Design and finally to the Art Students League. There, he was taught by Thomas Fogarty, George Bridgman, and Frank Vincent Dumond; his early works were produced for St. Nicholas Magazine, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) publication Boys’ Life and other juvenile publications. Joseph Csatari carried on his legacy and style for the BSA.

Boy With Two DogsAs a student, Rockwell was given smaller, less important jobs. His first major breakthrough came in 1912 at age eighteen with his first book illustration for Carl H. Claudy’s Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature.

Norman Rockwell Price Guide: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Boy with Two Dogs (Raleigh Rockwell Travels) signed ‘Norman/Rockwell’ (lower right)–inscribed ‘928/11′ (lower center) oil on canvas 31 x 24¼ in. (78.7 x 61.6 cm.) Painted in 1929. Sold for $800,000 Christies, New York May 2006.

In 1913, the nineteen-year old Rockwell became the art editor for Boys’ Life, published by the Boy Scouts of America, a post he held for three years (1913–1916). As part of that position, he painted several covers, beginning with his first published magazine cover, Scout at Ship’s Wheel, appearing on the Boys’ Life September 1913 edition.

During the First World War, he tried to enlist into the U.S. Navy but was refused entry because, at 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 140 pounds (64 kg), he was eight pounds underweight. To compensate, he spent one night gorging himself on bananas, liquids and doughnuts, and weighed enough to enlist the next day. However, he was given the role of a military artist and did not see any action during his tour of duty.

Rockwell’s family moved to New Rochelle, New York at age 21 and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe’s help, he submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916, Mother’s Day Off (published on May 20). He followed that success with Circus Barker and Strongman (published on June 3), Gramps at the Plate (August 5), Redhead Loves Hatty Perkins (September 16), People in a Theatre Balcony (October 14) and Man Playing Santa (December 9). Rockwell was published eight times total on the Post cover within the first twelve months. Norman Rockwell published a total of 321 original covers for The Saturday Evening Post over 47 years.

Homecoming MarineRockwell’s success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of the day, most notably The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, Leslie’s Weekly, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly and Life Magazine.

Norman Rockwell Price Guide: Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), HOMECOMING MARINE, painted 1945, measurements 46 by 42 in., Description signed Norman/Rockwell, l.r. oil on canvas. Sold for $9,200,00 at Sothebys, New York, May 2006.

Rockwell married his first wife, Irene O’Connor, in 1916. Irene was Rockwell’s model in Mother Tucking Children into Bed, published on the cover of The Literary Digest on January 19, 1921. However, the couple divorced in 1930. He quickly married schoolteacher Mary Barstow, with whom he had three children: Jarvis Waring, Thomas Rhodes and Peter Barstow. The family lived at 24 Lord Kitchener Road in the Bonnie Crest neighborhood of New Rochelle, New York. Rockwell and his wife were not very religious, although they were members of ?St. John’s Wilmot Church, an Episcopal church near their home, and had their sons baptized there as well. Rockwell moved to Arlington, Vermont in 1939 where his work began to reflect small-town life. In 1953, the Rockwell family moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, so that his wife could be treated at the Austen Riggs Center, a psychiatric hospital at 25 Main Street, down Main Street from where Rockwell set up his studio.[3] Rockwell himself received psychiatric treatment from the renowned analyst Eric Erikson, who was on staff at Riggs. Erikson is said to have told the artist that he painted his happiness, but did not live it. In 1959, Mary Barstow Rockwell died unexpectedly. In 1961, Rockwell married Molly Punderson, a retired teacher.

In 1943, during the Second World War, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms series, which was completed in seven months and resulted in his losing 15 pounds. The series was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, in which he described four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear. The paintings were published in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. The U.S. Treasury Department later promoted war bonds by exhibiting the originals in 16 cities. Rockwell himself considered “Freedom of Speech” to be the best of the four. That same year a fire in his studio destroyed numerous original paintings, costumes, and props.

Shortly after the war, Rockwell was contacted by writer Elliott Caplin, brother of cartoonist Al Capp, with the suggestion that the three of them should make a daily comic strip together, with Caplin and his brother writing and Rockwell drawing. King Features Syndicate is reported to have promised a $1,000/week deal, knowing that a Capp-Rockwell collaboration would gain strong public interest. However, the project was ultimately aborted as it turned out that Rockwell, known for his perfectionism as an artist, could not deliver material as fast as required of him for a daily comic strip.

During the late 1940s, Norman Rockwell spent the winter months as artist-in-residence at Otis College of Art and Design. Students occasionally were models for his Saturday Evening Post covers. In 1949, Rockwell donated an original Post cover, “April Fool,” to be raffled off in a library fund raiser.

Later, in 1958, his wife Mary died unexpectedly, and Rockwell took time off from his work to grieve. It was during this break that he and his son Thomas produced his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, which was published in 1960. The Post printed excerpts from this book in eight consecutive issues, the first containing Rockwell’s famous Triple Self-Portrait.

Rockwell married his third wife, retired Milton Academy English teacher, Molly Punderson, in 1961. His last painting for the Post was published in 1963, marking the end of a publishing relationship that had included 322 cover paintings. He spent the next 10 years painting for Look magazine, where his work depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration.

During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. One of his last works was a portrait of legendary singer Judy Garland in 1969.

A custodianship of 574 of his original paintings and drawings was established with Rockwell’s help near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the museum is still open today year round. For “vivid and affectionate portraits of our country,” Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the United States of America’s highest civilian honor. Rockwell died November 8, 1978 of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. First Lady Rosalynn Carter attended his funeral.

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