Norman Rockwell painting a “wild woman”? Dabbling with abstract art? And where did that horse come from anyway?
Rockwell visited the Higgins Armory Museum in Worcester, Massachusetts, and came away with an idea for this 1962 Post cover. He recreates the setting with remarkable accuracy, except for two key elements: the guard eating his lunch and the hungry horse eyeballing him were strictly out of Rockwell famous imagination. Proof indeed that an artist’s mind can be a strange place, but it does show Rockwell thinking outside the box (or perhaps, outside the ol’ swimming hole). Additionally, the sumptuous display was an ideal setting for his passion for reproducing intricate details.
The Bridge Game
“I have two radio bridge programs,” wrote a reader from Oregon in 1948, and “ever since the appearance of your May 15th issue, I’ve been swamped with mail asking what I think the redhead with the gardenia should do.” (note: in Letters to Editor July 3, 1948, page 8)
If you think Rockwell was a stickler for details, you should get a bridge player started! Many wrote in to say what the redhead should do, citing percentages and probabilities.
The idea for the painting had been fermenting in the artist’s brain for three years, with Post Art Editor Ken Stuart clipping and sending him bridge cartoons to prod him. Rockwell finally did deal the cards, with the assistance of a bridge expert, and produced this delightful painting done from a most difficult perspective.
Borrowing the “wild-woman” banner for this carnival scene may not seem a big deal, but having two merry-go-round horses weighing in at 365 pounds each shipped to his Vermont studio was, well, for Rockwell, not that unusual, either. “If a convoy rolled into Arlington, Vermont,” claimed Post editors in this 1947 issue, “bearing a stuffed whale, a cast-iron deer and a grandfather clock,” townsfolk would simply point and say, “Rockwell’s house is up that way.” The artist didn’t let much stop him when it came to props, and indeed, the rest of the world was happy to fall in line. “We came home from church one Sunday and he was closing our front door,” former Rockwell model, Mary Whalen Leonard, recently told us. “He said, ‘Oh, I was hoping you wouldn’t catch me! I was up this morning early and I know I had seen this little picture and I thought it was in your house, so I just wandered around and looked through your cupboards.’” He described it to Mary’s mother who simply said, “Oh no, that’s at Ann Marsh’s.” Rockwell replied, “All right, I’ll go to the Marsh’s,” and bade them good day.
Forty-six years after his first Post cover, Rockwell embraced modern art. “I attended some classes in modern art techniques. I learned a lot and loved it.”
And he had fun playing Jackson Pollock for this 1962 cover (the scrawled red “JP” in the upper right is a tribute to Pollock). He put the canvas on the floor, dipping into paints and splashing them far and wide. It happened that a worker was painting the windows of his studio, and 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! As for whatever happened to the original “Rockwell-Pollock,” it is in the private collection of a gentleman named Steven Spielberg.
The Post has a larger-than-life version of Rockwell’s The Connoisseur in our Indianapolis headquarters. Check it out here.
We would like to feature your favorite Rockwell cover! Drop us an email at [email protected] and include your name, along with the title and date or just a good description of your favorite piece. We’ll pick the five most popular for the upcoming Web feature, “Readers’ Favorite Rockwells.”