Where do we start with Norman Rockwell? The artist who went out of his way to illustrate to his fellow Americans that he was observing the details most missed. Presenting still imagery with complex and dynamic narratives. The country experienced Rockwell’s covers on the Saturday Evening Post for his entire career, spanning almost fifty years and becoming a household name to most.
Rockwell went on to inspire culture as we know it in many ways. One being his effect on the award-winning directors, Stephen Spielberg and George Lucas who have both collected his work throughout their careers. Both directors would go further and credit Rockwell’s process of making imagery as the foundation knowledge to create film.
We have put together the most interesting facts on the infamous artist so that you too can enjoy the legacy of Norman Rockwell..
- Norman Rockwell was a perfectionist.
If something wasn’t right with one of his images, he would go back through his highly technical process to correct it. Whether it was at the casting, photography, drawing or painting stage. Going as far as to delay commissions months after they were due as the pieces were not yet finished to a standard that the artist was happy with, at times putting himself in debt in the name of art.
- Rockwell was dismissed by the artworld for being an illustrator.
Throughout Rockwell’s career he was never accepted as an artist in his own right for the works that he created, only as an illustrator. From his work in World War Two creating imagery and participating in the War effort with the piece ‘Willie Gillis Food Package’ 1941, to his iconic character ‘Rosie the Riveter’ published in 1943. As well as his support in the civil rights movement with pieces ‘The Problem We All Live With’ 1964, ‘Southern Justice' 1965 and ‘Moving Day’ 1967. Rockwell had a way of connecting with the viewers of his works and inspiring positive change.
- Rockwell supported the civil rights movement.
Rockwell created three pieces of imagery throughout the 1960’s that represented the cruelty faced by black people within the civil rights movement in America. The first was published in the magazine ‘Look’ and titled ‘The Problem We All Live With’ published in 1964. This image depicts a young girl, Ruby Bridges with books in hand walking along the street to school. Either side of Ruby are deputy U.S Marshals escorting her to school and on the wall behind the group are racial slurs and the remnants of food, thrown possibly seconds earlier. The threat to Ruby is seen in her detached expression with her eyes facing firmly forwards. The magazine received both praise and criticism for Rockwell’s piece however that did not deter the artist from visualising the struggles black people were facing. The artist went on to create ‘Southern Justice’ in 1965 again for ‘Look’ magazine. The image was a reaction to three militants of the civil rights movement being killed by the Klu Klux Klan. ‘Moving Day’ was created for The Saturday Evening Post in 1967 which depicted children moving into their new home in the suburbs. The image captures a childlike lens of curiosity to new people in the neighbourhood and hope for a more tolerant society.
- Rockwell created one of the most iconic feminist characters
As the second world war raged on Rockwell realized that war was not a single gendered business but a team effort. The artist went on to create the character of a young worker, we now know as Rosie the riveter. Rosie was in overalls with a gun on her lap as she stood on, Mein Kampf looking unfazed and eating her lunch. Rockwell took inspiration from the figure of prophet Isaiah painted by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.
- Rockwell was a die-hard scout
Throughout Norman Rockwell’s life he was always involved with the Boy Scouts of America so much so that they were his longest collaboration, creating imagery for the organization for nearly 65 years. At the beginning of the artist’s career in 1912, Rockwell was commissioned by the Boy Scouts of America to illustrate the Boy Scout Hikebook. After the positive reaction to the first commission Rockwell was made a permanent employee, creating imagery for the weekly magazine and soon after became the art director. This position finished when he left the magazine in 1917 but Rockwell continued to illustrate the annual calendar up until 1976 which was two years before the artist's death.