“Happy Birthday, Miss Jones”
Rockwell arranged this “surprise” party for Miss Jones, of course. He posed the children in their seats and arranged the humble birthday gifts on the desk: an apple, an orange, a flower or two, and packages tied with string. I like the “Happy Birthday Jonesy” on the blackboard. Also the Rockwell details: an eraser and chalk dust on the floor indicate there was an eraser fight while waiting for the teacher to show up. The kid with the red shirt still has an eraser on his head.
But just as with the 1935 cover (below) of a teacher, Rockwell received complaints about how he portrayed teachers. Although a reader wrote that the artist captured “the full loving beauty of what is called ‘teaching’ in that sweet face,” another complained, why did he “make the schoolteacher so mousy looking”? Alas, even Norman Rockwell couldn’t please everyone.
“First Day of School”
Rockwell loved costumes such as these 1870s dresses, but moved away from that since people just didn’t care for these covers as they did the modern covers that depicted everyday life and dress. The artist felt that every schoolteacher in the country complained about how homely he made this schoolmarm. One must observe that the contrast with the friendly, pretty mother is significant. One might also think the teacher may seem a little eager to use that stick behind her back for any errant behavior. The pupil with his “boys-will-be-boys” bandage may have met his match.
Back in 1917, Rockwell painted a very attractive teacher. The boy has to stay after school and write, “Knowledge is Power” on the blackboard an infinite number of times for some misdeed. It appears the student has acquired some unintended knowledge. A suitor (notice the box of candy behind his back) calling on a schoolmistress was juicy stuff indeed.
“First in His Class”
Rockwell was not terribly fond of school himself, which was perhaps why he depicted this young scholar as a nerd. To have the schoolmaster drone on and on about your intellectual achievements? I suspect Rockwell would have preferred having to write something on the chalkboard a bazillion times.