We remember Rockwell for warm-hearted depictions of everyday life, but in Facts of Life, his July 14, 1951, cover, he captured a painful moment that his audience could certainly relate to: an earnest and obviously uncomfortable dad attempting to explain the birds and bees to a son who has, judging from his expression, already heard more than enough.
The power of Rockwell’s paintings often grows out of the artist’s uncanny ability to capture emotions. Notice how the boy’s clenched fists at the sides of his face evoke a fighter fending off blows. Meanwhile, as a counterpoint, kittens play innocently while their mama snoozes on the floor — the perfect analogue for Dad’s message.
Son Peter Rockwell said he never had “the talk” with his father, though they had a close relationship. The only times his famous dad was unapproachable was when Norman was having trouble conceptualizing a cover. The worst it ever got, says Peter, was during the 11 months Rockwell took to complete this image of tangible embarrassment.
This article is featured in the May/June 2022 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.
Featured image: Norman Rockwell / © SEPS
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