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Valentine Kiss

Published: December 17, 2012

Norman Rockwell
February 9, 1935
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“The story of my life is really the story of my pictures and how I made them,” Norman Rockwell frequently said. “In one way or another, everything I have seen or done has gone into my pictures.”

Some of his ideas gestated for years, but this February 9, 1935, Post cover (right) sprang to life quickly, inspired by a surprising turn of events that had occurred the previous November.

On that day, Norman’s second wife, Mary, and their friend Bud Cunningham (an out-of-work commercial artist and part-time handyman) had dropped by Norman’s studio in New Rochelle, New York. The artist was explaining that his assignment was to showcase the automobile’s influence on advertising.

But just as Norman was saying this, the door swung open and Howard O’Connor, Norman’s ex-brother-in-law, burst in. He had sad news: His sister Irene (Norman’s first wife) had died unexpectedly.

Only after delivering the news did Howard notice the others. He was embarrassed about barging in and apologized for interrupting. After an awkward silence, the ever-gracious Mary broke the ice: “What if the cover was a billboard advertisement with Bud as a sign painter, painting a portrait of a pretty woman’s face—a likeness and tribute to Irene?”

Norman kissed her, then picked up his pad and sketched her idea out on the spot. At the bottom of the sketch, Norman penciled in the word “kiss.”

“A Valentine kiss?” asked Howard.

“Yes, for my Mary,” replied the artist.

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