Artist Profile

Norman Rockwell

Friday is Artist Profile Day!

Let’s meet Norman Rockwell 

The Problem We All Live With in 1964 (a black child being escorted by US marshals to her first day at school at an all-white school in New Orleans).

Artist: Norman Rockwell

Born: 1894 in New York City.

Died: 1978 at his home in Stockbridge Massachusetts.

Where they lived: At the age of 21 Norman and his family moved to New Rochelle, New York. Other famous illustrators worked in this community.
Norman and Mary moved to Arlington Vermont in 1939 (his artwork shifted to reflect small-town American life). In 1953, they moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Family: His parents were J. Waring and Nancy Hill Rockwell. His older brother, Jarvis was an athlete. Waring was a branch office manager for a cotton textile mill.

Rockwell married Irene O’Connor in 1916 and they later divorced in 1930. Norman married Mary Barstow (who was a schoolteacher) in 1930. They had 3 sons; Jarvis, Thomas, and Peter. Mary died unexpectedly in 1959. He married Molly Punderson (a retired teacher) in 1961.

Background: Norman found early success; when he was commissioned to paint four Christmas cards before his 16th birthday. While he was still a teenager, he was hired as the art director for the Boys’ Life (the official Boy Scouts of America publication. This was the beginning of his successful freelance career.

A Scout is Helpful in 1939

Tried to join the Navy during World War 1 but was rejected for being underweight.

While living in New Rochelle, Rockwell was set up a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe and he produced work for such magazines as Life, Literary Digest, and Country Gentleman.

In 1916, 22 year old Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post, the magazine considered by Rockwell to be the “greatest show window in America.” Over the course of the next 47 years, Rockwell would paint another 321 Post covers. He ended his association with the Post in 1963 and worked for Look for 10 years.

Professional background/training: Norman always wanted to be an artist.

Norman’s training back at the early age of 14 years old when he enrolled in art classes at the New York School of Art. Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study at The National Academy of Design. Soon afterwards he transferred to the Art Students League. Here is where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty taught Rockwell illustrations which prepared him for his first commercial commissions; whereas, from Bridgman he learned technical skills that remained with him throughout his career.

Art Genre: Realism

Art medium used: Rockwell started with creating rough sketches, then rough drafts were completed using charcoal. Lastly, he used transfer paper to transfer the charcoal onto lined canvas or wood panels and were completed using oil paints.

Subject Matters: humorous depictions of American life (small town). He painted about social issues and civil rights such as poverty, race, space exploration, and the Vietnam war.

Famous Artwork:  Master storyteller through his artwork….

1927 celebration of Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic on the cover of the Post.

Rosie the Riveter, the cover of the Post on May 29, 1943.

Rosie The Riveter, 1943

Four Freedoms on the covers of the Post on February 21st and 27th as well as March 6th and 13th 1943.

A portrait of John F. Kennedy in 1963 appeared on the cover of the Post a week prior to his assassination.

He created the cover of the Look in 1969 that covered Neil Armstrong successful moon landing (an imprint of his left foot on the surface of the moon).

The Golden Rule painting was created in 1961.

His painting Saving Grace sold for $46 million in 2013 but when it was created for The Saturday Evening Post in 1951 earned him $3500.

Rockwell was named the Official State Artist of Massachusetts in 2008.

Other Information: In 1943, Rockwell was inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress so he painted the Four Freedoms Paintings. They were reproduced in four consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post and were accompanied by essays. The Four Freedoms Paintings are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear were extremely popular. The paintings toured the US in an exhibition sponsored by the Post and the US Treasury Department; and through the sale of war bonds they raised more than $130 million for the war effort.  He created World War II posters.

Freedom of Fear on the left Freedom of Want on the right
Freedom of Speech
Freedom of Worship

However, in 1943 Rockwell’s studio was destroyed by a fire. This fire damaged many paintings as well as historical props and costumes.

Norman collaborated with his son Thomas to publish his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator.

In 1977, Rockwell received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

The Golden Rule is on display at the United Nations.

The Golden Rule, 1961

“Some people have been kind enough to call me a fine artist. I’ve always called myself an illustrator. I’m not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life”. (Norman Rockwell)

“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.” (Norman Rockwell)

“The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they’re always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back”. (Norman Rockwell)


Norman Rockwell Museum

Norman Rockwell Biography

Saturday Evening Post

Norman Rockwell facts

American Art Biography

Art Mediums used by Rockwell

Rockwell Facts



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