We’re continuing our tour of Rockwell by decades with Part Two of his 1960s illustrations, featuring covers that don’t exactly look like “Rockwells.”
“In Fellowship Lies Friendship”– August 27, 1960
This rather daunting edifice is the University Club of New York. The club’s motto was “In Fellowship Lies Friendship,” and the fellows inside seem to be interested in the “friendship” developing outside.
Also interested in the tall sailor chatting up the shapely blonde are a few bystanders. Two of those rather non-pedestrian pedestrians are in the lower left corner—Mr. Rockwell, we presume, walking alongside his daughter-in-law, Gail.
What appears to be a simple scene is actually quite detailed. I for one am amazed at the “texture” in the stone. The birds flying by are easy to miss, and leave it to Rockwell to be faithful to the Italian Renaissance details, including the unusual keystones above the windows. The building is still an architectural landmark today.
“Well!” (Jack Benny) –March 2, 1963
Well! What else can one say about Jack Benny? Okay, for you younger readers, the delightful Jack Benny had a way of saying, “Well!” that…well, you just had to be there. This painting could also be called, “I’m thinking, I’m thinking!” as in his standard response to the line “Your money or your life!” Really, this stuff wasn’t that corny at the time…
As we saw in the previous feature, Rockwell painted world figures in far-flung places, but, interestingly, he was nervous about meeting the beloved comedian. He called Bill Davidson of the Post and told him, “I’m really nervous about meeting this Benny fellow. Would you be good enough to help me over the hurdle?” Ironically, about a half an hour earlier, Benny, who was beloved by millions and the friend of presidents and kings, called Davidson with the same request. He was nervous about meeting the great Norman Rockwell. So Davidson was there for the meeting. Hey, world leaders come and go. Benny and Rockwell were classics!
“The Golden Rule”– April 1, 1961
Norman Rockwell, whose first Saturday Evening Post cover appeared in 1916, was still painting classics 45 years later in 1961. Taking a serious turn, he created “The Golden Rule,” which is, of course, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Oddly enough, the models who depicted the humanity of many nations, all came from the general area of Rockwell’s studio. Rockwell had a passion for costumes and had collected many from his travels abroad. Of the rabbi, the artist chuckled, “he’s Mr. Lawless, our retired postmaster. I put whiskers on him, and I think he fits the part quite well, even if he is a Catholic.” Barely visible in the upper right corner is a face painted by memory: Rockwell’s late wife, holding their first grandson, a child she hadn’t lived to know.
Rockwell received the Interfaith Award from the National Conference of Christians and Jews for this cover.
“Stained Glass Artistry”– April 16, 1960
Among our Rockwells that don’t look like Rockwells, we have this Easter 1960 cover. The idea came from a trip Norman took to Westminster Abbey in London, where a craftsman was high on a scaffold repairing a stained glass window.
Oh how the artist toiled to capture that luminosity of the backlit stained glass. He just couldn’t do it. Finally, he found stained glass designers Rowan and Irene LeCompet of New York and they traveled to Rockwell’s studio bearing detailed plans of a window they had designed for a Washington church. That’s Rowan LeCompet up on the scaffold repairing a break. Rockwell studied church window after church window, inside and out, before he finally captured that radiant quality.
“Midnight Snack”– November 3, 1962
This cover is another example of Rockwell’s attention to minute detail, and an example of his wild sense of humor. The scene takes place at the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, which must be a fascinating place to visit. The knight in shining armor atop the horse was a display that caught Rockwell’s fancy. The detail in the tapestry is wonderful. Not part of the collection, but a figment of Norman’s imagination, is the guard having a midnight snack. And we really, really hope the disapproving glare of the horse was part of Norman’s fancy, too!
COMING UP: A three-part series of the 1950s Rockwell, with some classics and some surprises.