Rockwell in the 1960s – Part I of II

We’re beginning a tour of Rockwell by decades, beginning with the 1960s and traveling back to the 19-teens. We hope you’ll join us for the whole fascinating journey!

Rockwell Paints Nehru

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We’re beginning a tour of Rockwell by decades, beginning with the 1960s and traveling back to the 19-teens. We hope you’ll join us for the whole fascinating journey!

“Rockwell Paints Nehru”– Feb 13, 1960

“Rockwell Paints Nehru” January 19, 1963
“Rockwell Paints Nehru”
from January 19, 1963


Forget freckle-faced boys, scruffy dogs and swimming holes. Rockwell was a seasoned traveler in the 1960s, often painting world leaders along the way.

“The Connoisseur”– January 13, 1962

 “The Connoisseur” January 13, 1962
“The Connoisseur”
from January 13, 1962


You can stare at the man staring at the Jackson Pollock-like picture all day and still not decide if he is thinking of whipping out his checkbook to buy it, or wondering, “What in blue blazes is going on here?”

Rockwell himself attended some classes “in modern art techniques. I learned a lot and loved it.” He had fun with this one. He put the canvas on the floor, dipping into paints and splashing them far and wide. It happened that a worker was washing the windows of his studio, so 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!

“Gamal Abdel Nasser”– May 15, 1963

“Gamal Abdel Nasser” May 15, 1963
“Gamal Abdel Nasser”
from May 15, 1963


Not what you think of as a “Rockwell,” is it? But Norman Rockwell was a great portrait painter (see the paintings he did of candidates Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy in “Presidential Post Covers” from February 19, 2011). Nasser of Egypt was a pivotal figure in world politics since becoming president in 1954.

Nasser knew he was a handsome man and insisted on a frontal view with a toothpaste smile. Rockwell was just as insistent on a profile portrait. The artist would pose him the way he wished and begin sketching and Nasser would turn around and flash that big smile again. Now, clearly Norman was dealing with a powerful world figure, and not one to trifle with. This was a man who had helped organize the overthrow of the Egyptian royal family—a man with many guards around. Big guards. But Rockwell persisted in posing the President as he wanted, and, uncharacteristically, Nasser finally gave in.

“Nehru”– January 19, 1963

"Nehru"– January 19, 1960
from January 19 1960


Another day, another hot spot in the world. Rockwell accompanied Post Editor Robert Sherrod to India to report on “the epical struggle between China and India, which engages a third of mankind.” The article included photos of India of the early sixties, including one of college girls getting “emergency rifle training” from an army instructor.

Rockwell and his wife Molly enjoyed India and were invited to Nehru’s home. There they met Nehru’s daughter, Indira Ghandi, a future Prime Minister. The Rockwells were flattered and more than a little startled to find that Madame Gandhi had a room lined with Rockwell prints for her children.

“The Window Washer”– September 17, 1960

"The Window Washer"– September 17, 1960
“The Window Washer”
from September 17, 1960


“Sakes alive! What ever has come over Norman Rockwell?” mused Post editors. “Does he hold with this sort of behavior?” Actually, Rockwell initially envisioned a different type of woman. He had in mind “a very prim girl, looking shocked,” he told us. “But the idea of youth calling to youth worked out more effectively. The girl isn’t going to date the fellow, however. You may assure the public of that.” Aw, Norman, that would have made a nice ending!

“Modernizing the Post”– September 16, 1961

"Modernizing the Post"– September 16, 1961
“Modernizing the Post”
from September 16, 1961


The Pennsylvania Gazette was started in 1729 by an innovative young man named Benjamin Franklin. The Gazette is one of the many mastheads on display on the easel. Although it was the most successful newspaper in the colonies in 1815, long after Franklin’s death, it ceased publication and reportedly became a paper called The Saturday Evening Post. The connection is nebulous, but we remain determined to say we were started by Ben Franklin, so work with us here. Said paper was in dire financial straits by the 1890s and was purchased for $1,000 in 1897 by Cyrus Curtis, publisher of The Ladies’ Home Journal. From time to time, the Post changed its appearance; hence, the varied mastheads you see here.

Norman Rockwell, himself a rather important piece of Post history, depicts art designer Herbert Lubalin deciding on a clean, streamlined “POST.”

Next: Rockwell in the 1960s — Part II

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  1. Love the cover “The Connoisseur”, one of my all time favorites. Mr. Rockwell’s work only improved with age. It is nice to say the Saturday Evening Post was started bt Ben Franklin, even if it really wasn’t.

  2. Diana, I really learned a lot about Norman Rockwell and some of the behind-the-scenes stories that accompanied certain covers. I find it fascinating ‘The Connoisseur’ involved a worker who climbed to the top of a ladder to dump a can of white paint on the canvas for Rockwell. One can’t help but wonder if Jackson Pollock didn’t utilize such techniques himself in his ‘paintings’! The irony of Rockwell and Pollock’s style together on the same cover was not lost on me either.

    The Nasser story is almost jaw-dropping. Rockwell may have looked like the unassuming, all-American gentleman, but obviously was a force to be reckoned with when he needed to be. The fact he stood up to a leader of Nasser’s magnitude, and got HIM to give in to the profile painting, shows what a shrewd ‘salesman’ Rockwell was! This painting is among his finest, and I love the beautiful Egyptian background. No doubt Nasser loved it too; how could he not?!

    Love the Nehru cover and ‘Modernizing the Post’. I also agree with the Post’s stand on Ben Franklin being the Post’s founder. He lit the match of the candle that led to his paper becoming The Saturday Evening Post, even if it had a different NAME in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. That’s really just a technicality.


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