As adults, we delight in rediscovering a child’s innocence — especially as it recalls our own days of wonder. But are children truly innocent? Many of the following illustrations suggest children possess a bit more worldliness than we give them credit for.
Of course, there is growing up to do — and painful, um, learning experiences to be had along the way. Notice how Norman Rockwell brings a shocking discovery to life with realistic touches — the nicks in the wood of the parent’s vintage dresser, the scratchy-looking strands of fake beard, and those mothballs scattered on the floor.
Pyle’s paintings were extremely popular and appeared on more than 40 Post covers. They were often a family affair, as one or more of the artist’s four children modeled for many of her illustrations, including this one. Pyle adds a dash of humor in the incongruous appearance of a pocket watch – an item that has clearly been misappropriated by the overreaching toddler.
Here we experience nothing less than gift delirium – the frantic zeal with which children attack their share of holiday bounty. This toddler, with the experience of just two Christmases, at most, shows, the determination and energy of a more seasoned child as he digs into dad’s argyle sock. It’s thrilling, yes, but perhaps a bit much for the youngster to bear. Can a tantrum be far behind?
Perhaps there’s a reason that choirs are often kept in the back of the church – and out of sight. Though Hunter had no children of er own, she made a career of celebrating the true spirit of childhood in all its untidiness.
A lesser artist would have shown the children’s rapturous delight upon first spying their assembled gifts. But Falter leaves us in that sweet moment of anticipation: the Christmas that is always about to arrive.
The end of innocence? This Sargent cover actually predates Rockwell’s better known version by a few years. According to this 1951 issue of the Post, the boy in is illustration “will inquire why Santa Claus left his clothes and part of his head in the attic.”
These illustrations and many others are featured in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, Norman Rockwell: Christmas in America. This edition can be ordered here.