Norman P. Rockwell
Illustrator. Born February 3, 1894, in New York City, Norman Rockwell is best remembered for his heartwarming illustrations of American life that appeared on covers of the Saturday Evening Post magazine for many decades. Marked by nostalgia and moral fortitude, the paintings remain popular with collectors.
Rockwell enjoyed drawing at an early age and soon decided he wanted to be an artist. During his freshman year in high school, he also attended the Chase School on Saturdays to study art. Later that year he attended Chase twice a week. Halfway through his sophomore year, he quit high school and went full time to art school.Rockwell enrolled first in the National Academy School and then attended the Art Students League. Because he was so dedicated and solemn when working at his art, he related in his autobiography, he was nicknamed "The Deacon" by the other students.While still at the school, Fogarty sent Rockwell to a publisher, where he got a job illustrating a children's book. He next received an assignment from Boys' Life magazine. The editor liked his work and continued to give him illustration assignments. Eventually Rockwell was made art director of the magazine. He regularly illustrated various other children's magazines after that. "I really didn't have much trouble getting started," he remarked in his autobiography. "The kind of work I did seemed to be what the magazines wanted."
In March of 1916, Rockwell traveled to Philadelphia to attempt to see George Horace Lorimer, editor of the Saturday Evening Post, to show him some proposed cover paintings and sketches. It was his dream to do a Post cover. So he set out to sell Lorimer on his work. Since he did not have an appointment, the art editor came out and looked at his work, then showed it to Lorimer. The editor accepted Rockwell's two finished paintings for covers and also liked his three sketches for future covers. Rockwell had sold everything; his dream was not just realized but exceeded. This was the start of a long-term relationship with the Post.
In 1917, shortly after the United States entered World War I, Rockwell decided to join the navy. He was assigned to the camp newspaper, related Walton, and he was able to continue doing his paintings for the Post and other publications. When the war ended in 1918, Rockwell got an immediate discharge.
After the war, besides magazine works, Rockwell started doing advertising illustration. He did work for Jell-O, Willys cars, and Orange Crush soft drinks, among others. Also in 1920, he was requested to paint a picture for the Boy Scout calendar. He would continue to provide a picture for the popular calendar for over 50 years. During the 1920s, Rockwell became the Post's top cover artist and his income soared.
After President Franklin Roosevelt made his 1941 address to Congress setting out the "four essential human freedoms," Rockwell decided to paint images of those freedoms, reported Maynard Good Stoddard of the Saturday Evening Post. With the U.S. entry into World War II. Rockwell created the four paintings during a six-month period in 1942. His "Four Freedoms" series was published in the Post in 1943. The painting portrayed Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. The pictures became greatly popular and many other publications sent the Post requests to reprint. Then the federal government took the original paintings on a national tour to sell war bonds. As Ben Hibbs, editor of the Post, noted in Rockwell's autobiography, "They were viewed by 1,222,000 people in 16 leading cities and were instrumental in selling $132,992,539 worth of bonds." Then, in 1943, his studio burned to the ground. Rockwell lost some original paintings, drawings, and his extensive collection of costumes. The family then settled in nearby West Arlington.
In 1953, Rockwell and family moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. In the summer of 1959, his wife Mary suffered a heart attack and died. During the 1960s, Rockwell painted portraits of various political figures, including all of the presidential and vice-presidential candidates. Most of these were done for Look magazine.
In 1961, he was presented with an honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts. That same year he received an award that he especially treasured, wrote Walton. He was given the Interfaith Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews for his Post cover paining of the Golden Rule.
Rockwell's last Post cover appeared in December of 1963. Over the years he had done 317 covers. The magazine's circulation was shrinking at that time and new management decided to switch to a new format. After Rockwell and the Post parted ways, he began a different assignment, painting news pictures for Look.
In 1975, at the age of 81, Rockwell was still painting, working on his 56th Boys Scout calendar. In 1976 the city of Stockbridge celebrated a Norman Rockwell Day. On November 8, 1978, Rockwell died in his home in Stockbridge.