(February 3, 1894- November 8, 1978)
“I showed the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed.” — Norman Rockwell
Artist, Painter, Portraitist, Illustrator (The Saturday Evening Post, Look Magazine, Boy’s Life, Life Magazine, Country Gentleman, Literary Digest, St. Nicholas Magazine, book illustrations, Leslie’s Weekly, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly, Presidential Portraits, Album Covers), Artist-in-residence at The Otis College of Art and Design
Chase Art School, National Academy of Design, Art Students’ League, Otis College of Art and Design
Personal studio with cartoonist Clyde Forsythe in New Rochelle, New York; famous home studios in Arlington, Virginia and Stockbridge, Massachusetts
American Art, “Golden Age of Illustration”
Irene O’Connor, 1916-1929; Mary Barstow 1930-1959; Molly Punderson 1961-1978
Where is his art now?
The Norman Rockwell Museum: The Stockbridge Historical Society, University of North Texas Libraries, National Museum of American Illustration, The Saturday Evening Post Society, and various private collections
The Saturday Evening Post’s most prolific artist and illustrator, Norman Perceval Rockwell, sustained a healthy art career spanning most of the twentieth century. His art captured the simplest of moments, providing profound insight into the interactions of man. Not only is he famous to the Post’s readership, he is arguably the greatest American artist of all time.
Rockwell’s rise to notoriety happened during “The Golden Age of Illustration,” a fantastic epoch of financial stability and employment for capable artists. The dominance of art in advertising and media provided Rockwell and his colleagues the opportunity to produce thousands of works on commission, giving them the resources to explore their personal artistic passions.
Born in New York City on February 3, 1894, Rockwell grew up wanting to be an artist and illustrator. His art often utilized personal memories of his summers in the country for commentaries on the simplicity of American life. He lacked a passion for sports, spending many of his adolescent years drawing, and then drawing some more.
During high school, Rockwell attended the Chase School of Fine and Applied Art on the weekends, later increasing his class workload to weekdays. By 1909, at age 15, he left high school to pursue art studies at the National Academy of Design. A year later, he transferred to the Art Students’ League, where he studied draftsmanship and illustration under George B. Bridgman and Thomas Fogarty.
At the age of 18, Rockwell received his first job as art director for Boy’s Life magazine, a job he received through a meeting set up by Fogarty. His calendar illustrations for the publication were so popular that he submitted illustrations for the next fifty years, far longer than he stayed at the magazine.
At 21, Rockwell moved to the illustrators’ unofficial colony in New Rochelle, New York. The artist established his own studio with cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, where he produced work for magazines Life, Literary Digest, and The Country Gentleman. In 1916, at age 22, Rockwell received a commission for his first cover of The Saturday Evening Post, beginning a 47-year relationship spanning 321 original cover illustrations. He married Irene O’Conner that same year, but the marriage ended in 1929. He married Mary Barstow in 1930 and together they had three sons.
Rockwell’s illustrations thrived in popularity, growing out from basic themes of a simpler time, family values, morals, and honest virtues. His art looked up to an ideal; the perfect everyday lives Americans wished they could live. Illustrations of children fishing, playing, at the doctor’s office, getting a soda, and walking the streets enjoying summer all connected to the sensibilities of the time. His work elevated The Saturday Evening Post’s popularity–and its subscription base to 6,900,000 nationwide.
After a fire in his historic studio, Rockwell and his family moved from Arlington, Virginia to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953. His wife, Mary, died six years later, but Rockwell stayed in Stockbridge until his own death in 1978. In 1961 he remarried a woman name Molly Punderson, a former teacher. Though illustration as a popular medium fell into decline, Rockwell’s popularity persisted and he maintained a working relationship with Look magazine throughout the 1960s.
Today, Rockwell’s works are highly coveted and can be viewed in private collections and museums around the country. Most famously, The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts, holds a plethora of his work. This most revered American artist received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977. He died on November 8, 1978 at age 84.