Have you heard the story behind Rockwell’s cover The Gossips? Some say the painting was Rockwell’s revenge on a woman in Arlington, Vermont, who’d spread an ugly rumor about him. He re-created the life of the rumor, beginning with an elderly woman whispering about Rockwell to a neighbor. From there the tale takes wing, speeding through town from one eager gossip to the next, until it comes back to Rockwell himself, who confronts the rumor’s originator in the bottom right.
The faces are so carefully delineated you can almost hear the sound of their voices passing along the story in tones of shock or malevolent glee. But when the work was completed, Rockwell worried he had gone too far in caricaturing the neighbors he’d used as models. He even went so far as to ask the Post to assure readers that the people of his hometown were much better looking in life than the way he portrayed them.
Was the painting truly an act of revenge? It seems to have been regarded as such. When The Gossips appeared on the Post’s cover, what we heard is that the woman never spoke to Rockwell again. In fact, some say she left town. (Of course, this has to stay just between us.)
Become a Saturday Evening Post member and enjoy unlimited access. Subscribe now