We’re beginning a tour of Rockwell by decades, beginning with the 1960s and traveling back to the 19-teens. We hope you’ll join us for the whole fascinating journey!
“Rockwell Paints Nehru”– Feb 13, 1960
Forget freckle-faced boys, scruffy dogs and swimming holes. Rockwell was a seasoned traveler in the 1960s, often painting world leaders along the way.
“The Connoisseur”– January 13, 1962
You can stare at the man staring at the Jackson Pollock-like picture all day and still not decide if he is thinking of whipping out his checkbook to buy it, or wondering, “What in blue blazes is going on here?”
Rockwell himself attended some classes “in modern art techniques. I learned a lot and loved it.” He had fun with this one. He put the canvas on the floor, dipping into paints and splashing them far and wide. It happened that a worker was washing the windows of his studio, so the artist invited him to help. The man climbed to the top of a ladder and obligingly dumped a can of white paint on the canvas below. One can’t help but wonder whatever happened to the laborer who actually helped Norman Rockwell paint a Post cover!
“Gamal Abdel Nasser”– May 15, 1963
Not what you think of as a “Rockwell,” is it? But Norman Rockwell was a great portrait painter (see the paintings he did of candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in “Presidential Post Covers” from February 19, 2011). Nasser of Egypt was a pivotal figure in world politics since becoming president in 1954.
Nasser knew he was a handsome man and insisted on a frontal view with a toothpaste smile. Rockwell was just as insistent on a profile portrait. The artist would pose him the way he wished and begin sketching and Nasser would turn around and flash that big smile again. Now, clearly Norman was dealing with a powerful world figure, and not one to trifle with. This was a man who had helped organize the overthrow of the Egyptian royal family—a man with many guards around. Big guards. But Rockwell persisted in posing the President as he wanted, and, uncharacteristically, Nasser finally gave in.
“Nehru”– January 19, 1963
Another day, another hot spot in the world. Rockwell accompanied Post Editor Robert Sherrod to India to report on “the epical struggle between China and India, which engages a third of mankind.” The article included photos of India of the early sixties, including one of college girls getting “emergency rifle training” from an army instructor.
Rockwell and his wife Molly enjoyed India and were invited to Nehru’s home. There they met Nehru’s daughter, Indira Ghandi, a future Prime Minister. The Rockwells were flattered and more than a little startled to find that Madame Gandhi had a room lined with Rockwell prints for her children.
“The Window Washer”– September 17, 1960
“Sakes alive! What ever has come over Norman Rockwell?” mused Post editors. “Does he hold with this sort of behavior?” Actually, Rockwell initially envisioned a different type of woman. He had in mind “a very prim girl, looking shocked,” he told us. “But the idea of youth calling to youth worked out more effectively. The girl isn’t going to date the fellow, however. You may assure the public of that.” Aw, Norman, that would have made a nice ending!
“Modernizing the Post”– September 16, 1961
The Pennsylvania Gazette was started in 1729 by an innovative young man named Benjamin Franklin. The Gazette is one of the many mastheads on display on the easel. Although it was the most successful newspaper in the colonies in 1815, long after Franklin’s death, it ceased publication and reportedly became a paper called The Saturday Evening Post. The connection is nebulous, but we remain determined to say we were started by Ben Franklin, so work with us here. Said paper was in dire financial straits by the 1890s and was purchased for $1,000 in 1897 by Cyrus Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal. From time to time, the Post changed its appearance; hence, the varied mastheads you see here.
Norman Rockwell, himself a rather important piece of Post history, depicts art designer Herbert Lubalin deciding on a clean, streamlined “POST.”
NEXT WEEK: The portrait with the title: “Well!” Part II of II of Rockwell in the 1960s.