By Darla McCammon
After seeing the headline above, does a special person pop into your mind? For me, it’s an automatic “yes!” I cannot escape the literally hundreds of scenes that Norman Rockwell painted for “Boys Life” Magazine and his memorable “Saturday Evening Post tributes to our country.
Since we are celebrating a favorite summer holiday, I thought you would enjoy learning more about this humble, genuine, compassionate person who produced so many funny, sentimental, enlightening and inspiring works of art.
Rockwell was born in February 1894 and passed away in November 1978. His artwork portrayed American culture in a unique and humorous yet touching way. Rockwell was so honored for his work that today there are many sites that display his work including a wonderful collection with his boy scout theme in a college in Kentucky, as well as one museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts where they house the largest collection of original art by Rockwell in the world. Their loyalty to Rockwell goes deep as he spent his last 25 years in Stockbridge. Another museum is near Pittsfield called the Berkshire Museum.
The museum in Massachusetts produced this quote about their favorite son: “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.” (Your author says we could use a little of this today). 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.
The paintings he produced boosted morale for both the military as well as people manning the jobs at home. Scores of scenes with soldiers, American flags, eagles, and other patriotic symbols were legion. An example is the “Happy Birthday” adorning the famous Liberty Bell as the nation celebrated the 4th of July proud to be Americans. (photo provided).
Rockwell was well educated in art At the age of 14, he left his high school and began his schooling at the Chase Art School, after which he was trained at a higher level at the National Academy of Design and from there he migrated to the Art Students League. He had work accepted at several publications directed toward youth. St. Nicholas Magazine, Boys’ Life and the Boy Scouts of America were all magazines utilizing his early work. At age 18 he achieved what many artists never see in a lifetime, a contract for a complete book illustration for a book by Carl H. Claudy. From that point on he became more and more successful and in demand.
At age 21 the family moved to New Rochelle New York and Rockwell met up with Clyde Forsythe, a cartoonist employed by the Saturday Evening Post. This was a fortunate connection as he helped introduce Rockwell to the staff there. It was within the first year of his acceptance to work for the famous magazine that Rockwell was given the opportunity to provide the cover an amazing eight times. In his 47 years of work for The Saturday Evening Post, he created 323 covers.
The list of his honors and awards is huge. From movies, to books, to all kinds of calendars and magazines he produced wonderful work, over and over. Perhaps his most outstanding honor was to receive the United States Presidential Medal of Freedom just one short year prior to his death in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
If you have an opportunity to look up his entire story on the internet while you are stuck home during this pandemic. You will find his entire life story fascinating. Happy Fourth!