What a Man’s Gotta Do



Dad’s role, as depicted in midcentury America, was to be the breadwinner, play the occasional game of catch, and generally set a good example for his boys. And, oh yes, no one else can give the son “the talk,” unpleasant though it clearly is for both of them.


Father explains the "birds and the bees" to son.
Facts of Life
Norman Rockwell
July 14, 1951
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It wasn’t common to see fathers caring for babies in public; but in the privacy of the home, dads had to step up, if not always happily. In 2:00 Feeding (below), our subject appears tiny and trapped, the design emphasizing his isolation from the world outside.


2:00 Feeding
Stevan Dohanos
March 27, 1954

In Early Morning Feeding (below), the pajamas suggest prison stripes.

Early Morning Feeding
Howard Scott
January 27, 1945


Unhappy Campers

Precise composition supports the narrative in these two amusing paintings of dads oppressed by duty. In Dad, the Fish are Biting (below), notice how contrasting wishes are suggested with shadow, one side dark, the other light.


Son waiting for dad to wake for fishing
Dad, the Fish are Biting
Amos Sewell
August 25, 1962

And in After the Movie (below), our subject’s claustrophobia is heightened by those high walls and that eerie mob of little people.

Father and children leaving movie theater
After the Movie
Stevan Dohanos
September 6, 1947

Click here to read the accompanying article from the May/June 2015 issue, “The Daddy Factor” by Paul Raeburn.

More fathers on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post (click on the covers to see larger image):