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Classic Covers: Can You Tell a Rockwell?

Published: April 30, 2011

Tipping the Scales by Leslie Thrasher

Tipping the Scales by Leslie Thrasher

Tipping the Scales Leslie Thrasher October 3, 1936

We’ve used this classic 1936 cover on one of our cookbooks, and people tend to think it’s a Rockwell. Yes, they look like Rockwell-type characters, but no, it isn’t a Rockwell. It was done by artist Leslie Thrasher, who did twenty-five Saturday Evening Post covers. Alas, I’ve had people insist that it was a Rockwell, even though the signature says otherwise. What’s an archivist to do?

“Sick Pooch” by Russel Sambrook

Sick Pooch by Sambrook

"Sick Pooch" Russel Sambrook July 29, 1933

A surprising number of people think all Saturday Evening Post covers were by Rockwell. That’s kind of like thinking all classical music was composed by Beethoven. Although Norman was a prodigious worker and quite prolific, it would have been a physical impossibility to come up with the thousands of weekly covers that would have involved. A couple of things hint to me that this is not a Rockwell. The boy is too dapper for one. Rockwell liked weather-beaten clothing, especially hats (except when showing a “dressed-up” occasion). The wagon is clearly homemade, but maybe a little too neat and “unworn”. This was by Russell Sambrook, who only did 4 Post covers. The Rockwell version? See below.

Sick Puppy by Norman Rockwell

Sick Puppy  by Norman Rockwell

Sick Puppy Norman Rockwell March 10, 1923

Here is Norman Rockwell’s version from 1923. Most artists wouldn’t be inspired by a piece of broken crockery, but a dog dish that was far from perfect was right up Rockwell’s alley. This may have inspired the later version above – note the big safety pin holding the blanket around the dog in both paintings and the expression on the dogs faces – let’s hope they weren’t as ill as they were painted.

In the Dentist’s Chair by Kurt Ard

In the Dentist’s Chair by Kurt Ard

In the Dentist’s Chair Kurt ArdOctober 19, 1957

Rockwell did great covers of boys, and this one at the dentist’s office…is not one of them. It has the attention to detail (love the socks), the humor and pathos of a Rockwell, but no, it was by Kurt Ard. A reader purchased this, thinking it was a Rockwell because it had been a Post cover. And it did look like Rockwell’s style. If it’s any consolation, having been a Saturday Evening Post cover often adds value to a piece of art, even if not a Rockwell.

Readying for First Date by George Hughes

Readying for First Date by George Hughes

Readying for First DateGeorge HughesOctober 16, 1948

There’s more than one reason this cover by artist George Hughes looks like a Rockwell. The models! That young man getting ready for his first date was Tommy Rockwell, son of the artist. And trying to figure out the tie was Mrs. Rockwell. This was even Tommy’s room in Arlington, Vermont. Artists and their families often posed for each other. Who knew better how hard it was to get good models?

Height Comparison by Douglas Crockwell

Height Comparison by Douglas Crockwell

Height Comparison Douglas Crockwell January, 28 1933

Artist Douglass Crockwell did several covers for the Post, including this one. Rockwell-type characters are comparing height from son to dad. As with Rockwell, there is a lot of attention to detail (the pattern in mom’s dress, for example) but it’s a Crockwell, not a Rockwell (sorry – I always wanted to say that). It was hard enough to compete with an artist of Rockwell’s stature, but with the last name Crockwell, it was doubly hard. Poor Douglass Crockwell took to signing his work simply “Douglass”.

Cousin Reginald Under the Mistletoe by Norman Rockwell

Cousin Reginald Under the Mistletoe by Norman Rockwell

Cousin Reginald Under the MistletoeNorman Rockwell December 22, 1917

Norman Rockwell featured a city slicker named Reginald on several Country Gentleman covers (a sister publication to the Post for many years). Here’s an embarrassed Cousin Reginald under the mistletoe from 1917. Compare it to the one below.

Cutting In by Alan Foster

Cutting In by Alan Foster

Cutting In Alan Foster Septemeber 15, 1923

Again, showing the boy in glasses to indicate geekiness. Some of us who wear glasses beg to differ. This was done in 1923 by artist Alan Foster, who did thirty Post covers. As to clues on how to tell the Rockwell from the other artist? In all honesty, sometimes I just have to look at the signature.

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  • Katerine Amaya

    I have a clipping of a boy caring for his sick Dog and he is holdind a stop watch and taking his dogs pressure, it is not in a young state what will I need to do to preserv it ? Thanks

  • Ellen

    I have been trying for years to find a print I thought was by Norman Rockwell, only to be informed it was by George Hughes. It’s a dog with his ears clipped up so he can eat his dinner. Has anyone ever seen this print? Thank you!

  • TIGER

    i have a approx,18inx12in picture in frame of,” the saturday evening post”,(the double ride) by leslie thrasher, is it wort anything?

  • Laura Thrasher

    As you can see my by my name, curiosity is eating me alive. I had never heard of Leslie Thrasher before today. I can say that I see a huge difference in his work from Rockwell by the use if his color pallet. I’m very curious to learn more about him. I haven’t been able to find more than his illustrations and a brief bio with very little personal information. If you can tell more about him it would be greatly appreciated.

    Sincerely,
    Laura Thrasher

  • Peter Sharp

    I too grew up with The Saturday Evening Post in ENGLAND.
    It arrived promptly every week in the thirties and forties , even in wartime we never knew how we passed it on to friends in the village in North Yorkshire

  • Lois Bates

    As a girl, my father and I collected Saturday Evening Post covers and placed them in a scrapbook. Unfortunately, during my travels as an army wife, the scrapbook was lost, but the memories of those times with my father, and joy that the covers brought me linger on. I am so glad that I “found” the Saturday Evening Post again and look forward to receiving every issue.

  • Howard J. Fuller

    I have printed this out and I am sending it tomy Lady in Asheville, No. Carolina. She is an artists. Unfortunately she is not into computers.
    Kindest Regards
    Howard J. uller

  • Charles Neumann

    It is interesting, my wife said the same thing to me the other day, she thought all Post covers were by Rockwell. I explained that the Post was a weekly years ago when Rockwell did covers and there is no way he could have done them all. Many of the other cover artists were excellent in their own right, and did some great covers.

  • John Hamilton

    I just love the Rockwell, or should I say Crockwell, covers. I am 78 years old and I grew up with them.

  • Bob McGowan

    A lot of people think Norman Rockwell did EVERY Post cover; not just the ones that have a strong resemblance. He did about 322 covers between 1916 and ’63. That only averages out to 7-8 per year for a magazine that came out 52 weeks per year. Granted, I’m sure some years in his heyday there were more covers than that in a single year, but to think he did ALL of them he would have to have done over 2,400. No doubt his style influenced other artists, and I’m sure the Post editors liked having the Rockwell-ish look and themed covers for consistency throughout the years. Most Post artists though, had their own look and style even if the theme itself kind of “conformed” to what Rockwell did, or could have done. It’s an understandable mistake in some cases. Others, not so much.