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Sign on the Dotted Line

In Issue:

A newly-web couple signing their marriage licenses

The Marriage License
Norman Rockwell
June 11, 1955

Always a stickler for authenticity, Rockwell asked an engaged couple to pose for The Marriage License. He also asked a former town clerk, Jason C. Braman, to pose as the city official. Rockwell knew the old man was still mourning his wife, who’d died just a few months earlier, and thought sitting for the painting might lift Braman’s spirits. Rockwell’s plan worked. When the issue was published and neighbors asked if he was the man on the Post cover, Braman delightedly offered to autograph their copy.

This cover displays Rockwell’s genius for capturing the drama in everyday scenes. He contrasts the dark municipal office and its shelves of dusty books with the woman’s sunny dress and the promise of bright sunlight coming in the open window.

And he used the solitary old clerk to emphasize the hopefulness of the young couple. The effect was so ideal that Rockwell once pointed to the handsome bridegroom and said, “That is what I would have liked to look like if I had had the opportunity.”

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  • Ron Long

    I have always liked the cover “Sign on the doted line” as it reminds me of the time my future wife (Marilyn) got our marriage license when I was home on leave from the Air Force in June of 1953. The couple even has a remarkable resemblance to us… Ron Long, Johnston,IA

  • This was from the era of when Rockwell’s paintings came very close to looking like photographs. His style varied so much over the years and changing times, yet were always Rockwell.

    His kindness as a person is well known also. He could have gotten another man to pose as the city official, but chose Jason knowing of his recent loss and that it would lift his spirits, which it did. I’m quite familiar with this painting, but never knew this particular fact about it before. It makes it even more special now, and in future viewings of it.