Rockwell Video Minute: Arguing Politics Over Breakfast

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Rockwell Files: Commuters

Norman Rockwell’s 1946 cover Commuters was a tribute to fellow artist and friend Anna “Grandma” Moses, who painted in a folk-art style, rarely using perspective to convey distance. Hence, her landscapes appeared flattened and tilted forward so everything in the panorama could be seen. Commuters uses a similar style to portray Tuckahoe, New York, a very flat town that rises here like an Alpine village in the background. But the improbable landscape allowed Rockwell to make all the houses and cars of the neighborhood visible.

Commuters rushing to catch a train. The platform is crowded with waiting passengers.
Day at the races: Commuting to the Big Apple was no less of a challenge in the postwar years than it is today. Rockwell deliberately avoided using techniques to convey perspective in this tribute to the folk-art style of Grandma Moses. (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Grandma Moses, who only took up painting in her 70s, said she wanted her works to capture “how we used to live.” Similarly, Rockwell’s cover evokes a morning rush hour from 74 years ago that takes us back in time. Reflecting the rising postwar flight to the suburbs, Crestwood Station, a stop on the Harlem Line into New York, is crowded with well-dressed commuters. Notice how, in those days, hats were de rigueur out of doors — one exception being the housewife in curlers kissing her husband goodbye (bottom left). For a parallel to the modern commuter, notice the rapt attention each one has to their own newspaper — no socializing, no chatter. Today, of course, all that attention would be devoted to a phone.

Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

This article is featured in the September/October 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Rockwell Video Minute: Cousin Reginald

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Rockwell Video Minute: G.I. Homecoming

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Music Credit: Brotherhood by Monplaisir, licensed under a CC0 1.0 Universal License 

Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Rockwell Files: Reflections of a Hero

Homecoming soldiers were a popular subject for illustrators in 1945. But for this end-of-war cover, Rockwell took an unusual approach to capturing a veteran’s welcome home.

A traditional cover would have shown a G.I. standing tall and proud among civilian admirers, and Rockwell had produced a cover like that after the last war. It showed a tough, confident doughboy surrounded by adoring younger boys. But at the end of this world war, he gives us a slim, young Marine sitting on a box. As if to emphasize his youth, he is seated beside a little boy who is mimicking his pose.

The newspaper on the wall gives us his back story: The mechanic who’d enlisted for the war has now returned a hero, probably from the Asian theater, judging by the flag he is holding. But, instead of recounting tales of glory, he is looking up with a thoughtful, almost troubled expression at the boy who has just asked him a question.

Solder who have come home from the war speaks to friends and family in his garage
Rockwell’s Homecoming Marine, from the October 13, 1945, issue of the Post, conveys at a glance the ambiguity of a soldier’s feelings toward his old friends and coworkers. (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Rockwell was a master at conveying the subtleties of human expression, and it’s clear his intention wasn’t merely to show a hometown boy back in familiar surroundings, but also to capture the newly returned veteran’s feeling of isolation — knowing he can never adequately convey to the folks at home the things he experienced in the war.

This article is featured in the July/August 2020 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)

Rockwell Video Minute: Freedom from Fear

 

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell’s Freedom From Fear (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Rockwell Video Minute: April Fool’s Day

To study the covers in more detail and see all of the answers, visit saturdayeveningpost.com/fool.

See all of the videos in our Rockwell Video Minute series.

Featured image: © SEPS; Image of the sculpture “Coming to the Parson (patented 1870)” by John Rogers, painted plaster in the Delaware Art Museum Wilmington, Delaware, Photo Ad Meskens of a sculpture by John Rogers via the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Rockwell Files: Gary Cooper Puts On a Good Face

In 1930, Norman Rockwell traveled to California on the advice of his lawyer, who wanted the artist out of his home state of Vermont while he, the lawyer, settled a contract lawsuit with another magazine.

Rockwell stayed with friends who lived near Hollywood. He was fascinated by the extras and out-of-work actors he saw on the streets. Back home, he relied on neighbors for his models. Here, if he needed any type of face or character, he only had to walk around town to find what he wanted.

But when he got the idea for this cover, he asked the friend he was visiting to help him find a cowboy actor. Rockwell was stunned when Paramount Studios offered the services of their mega-star Gary Cooper.

When Cooper showed up for the modeling session, Rockwell later wrote, he filled the doorway, making Rockwell keenly aware of his own “narrow shoulders and puny arms.” But during three days of modeling, Cooper proved to be easy-going, very cooperative, and a practical joker who brought along exploding matches and ash trays that jumped when they were touched.

Gary Cooper as the Texan by Norman Rockwell, May 24, 1930. (Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

Probably in gratitude to Paramount, Rockwell put the name of Cooper’s latest movie, The Texan, on the slate in the background. The movie premiered shortly before this issue appeared on the newsstands.

Movie stars weren’t the only people who impressed Rockwell in California. He also met a school teacher there, Mary Barstow, who later returned east with him as his new wife.

Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

This article is featured in the March/April 2020 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Rockwell Video Minute: The Tattoo Artist

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Rockwell Files: After the Prom

Rockwell freely admitted he painted “life as I would like it to be.” But in the case of this cover painting from May 25, 1957, it was no simple matter. It took a masterful sense of staging, lighting, and careful execution to share with viewers his sense of an idealized world.

He starts with the happiness of two young people as they enjoy a night of feeling “grown up.” He emphasizes the magic of the evening by contrasting them against the mundane world of a dingy truck stop.

A soda jerk smells a teenager's corsage as she and her date get a drink of cola at the drugstore, following their high school prom.
(Norman Rockwell / SEPS)

He draws attention to their youth and innocence by dressing both in gleaming white. And he sets them beneath a beam of light from above that illuminates them and the appreciative cook. They are undisturbed by other customers, and even though Rockwell puts a dirty floor beneath them, they seem set apart from the dark interior in this perfect moment. Rockwell even echoes the viewer’s reaction by adding a bemused truck-driving spectator. Like him, we might observe this unforgettable moment with a smile of recognition, and perhaps recollections of our own.

This article is featured in the January/February 2020 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

Rockwell Draws the Common Cold

We drink plenty of liquids, wash our hands, avoid crowds, and what happens? In spite of every precaution almost all of us sooner or later come down with a common cold. In these sketches Norman Rockwell shows that this uncommonly annoying affliction succeeds in ruffling our dignity and spoiling our fun.

First page for The Common Cold, by Norman Rockwell
Read “The Common Cold” by Norman Rockwell from the January 27, 1945, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Rockwell Video Minute: Rockwell and Charles Dickens

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

Gallery: Heartwarming Christmas Traditions

Christmas is a season outside of time. Each holiday is new and fresh while at the same time connecting u to every other Christmas we’ve ever known. So each holiday season brings with it not just joyful moments but a generous helping of the past.

A military veteran greets his happy family as they welcome him home for Christmas.
Christmas Homecoming
Norman Rockwell
December 25, 1948

 

Toddler digging toys and treats out of his Christmas stocking.
Christmas Stocking Joy
J.C. Leyendecker
December 24, 1938

 

A little boy bawling on a mall Santa's lap, reaches out to his mother.
Crying on Santa’s Lap
George Hughes
December 6, 1958

 

A father and mother takes a Christmas photograph of their children. Their son shows his displeasure as sits next to his patient sister.
Christmas Photograph
Amos Sewell
December 11, 1954

 

Two boys watch their mother hide Christmas gifts in her closet.
Hiding Presents
Richard Sargent
December 7, 1957

 

Christmas planning can be a joy, but it often veers towards comedy. In the hands of Post cover artists, the experience is presented in equal parts delight, misery, and silliness.

 

A man with a Christmas tree in his arms stands in shock as his wife puts up a tree she bought earlier.
Tree Love
Constantin Alajálov
December 23, 1950

 

An exhausted couple rest in front of the Christmas tree they'd just decorated.
Trimming the Tree
George Hughes
December 1949

 

Man struggles to wrap a large gift box for Christmas.
All Wrapped Up in Christmas
Richard Sargent
December 19, 1959

 

If the windup to Christmas is hectic and exhausting, John Falter’s cover reminds us what an amazing spectacle the holiday is to children. In their cautious, pajama’d descent down the staircase at first light, one can almost feel their joy that, after weeks of longing and anticipation, the magical day has finally arrived.

 

Children sneak down a staircase on an early Christmas morning to see the presents Santa Claus left them.
Christmas Morning
John Falter
December 24, 1955

 

A series of illustrations showing how a family's Christmas morning progressed. In the first image, excited children dash into the living room towards the gifts under the tree. In the second image, the family exchange gifts. And in the final image, the family can be seen in the kitchen after having left a messy, gift- and wrapping paper-strewn living room.
Christmas Morning
Ben Kimberly Prins
December 27, 1958

 

This article is featured in the November/December 2019 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

 

Featured image and artwork: SEPS.

Rockwell Video Minute: Saying Grace

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS

The Art of the Post: Norman Rockwell’s Most Important Art Lesson

Read all of art critic David Apatoff’s columns here.

When Norman Rockwell was a young art student, he idolized Joseph Leyendecker, who he called “the most famous illustrator in America.”  Leyendecker was a cover artist for The Saturday Evening Post, and painted more than 300 covers between 1903 and 1943. Rockwell dreamed of becoming a cover artist too, but didn’t know how he could ever paint as well as the great Leyendecker.

In his autobiography, Rockwell recounted how he spied on Leyendecker, trying to learn his artistic secrets:

I’d followed him around town just to see how he acted…I’d ask the models what Mr. Leyendecker did when he was painting. Did he stand up or sit down? Did he talk to the models? What kind of brushes did he use? Did he use Winsor & Newton paints?

Unfortunately, none of this information seemed to make Rockwell a better painter.

A few years later, Rockwell finally got to visit Leyendecker in his studio and watched first-hand the master working on a painting. It turned out that Leyendecker’s secret had nothing to do with his brand of brushes or paint. Rockwell recalled:

New Rochelle published a brochure illustrated with reproductions of paintings by all the famous artists who lived in the town. Joe worked on his painting for months and months, starting it over five or six times. I thought he’d never finish it.

Painting by J.C. Leyendecker (photo courtesy of David Apatoff)

The painting that Rockwell saw on Leyendecker’s easel was beautiful, with many fine touches.

Close up of a boot in Leyendecker's painting
Detail from Leyendecker painting (photo courtesy of David Apatoff)

 

Close-up of a hand holding a rapier in J.C. Leyendecker's painting
Detail from Leyendecker painting (photo courtesy of David Apatoff)

The painting was 95 percent finished and the client would have been happy to pay for it. All Leyendecker needed to do was finish this hand and a few other touches.

Close-up of a hand in J.C. Leyendecker's painting
Detail from Leyendecker painting (photo courtesy of David Apatoff)

Yet, Leyendecker remained unsatisfied. The painting didn’t meet his high personal standards.

Rather than correct the parts he wanted to improve, Leyendecker set the entire painting aside and started all over again, searching for the exact image he envisioned.

Later, when Rockwell saw the final version published by New Rochelle, it looked like this:

French swordsman holding a rapier in one hand
(Image courtesy of Elizabeth Alberding, Kelly Collection of Illustration Art)

­­­­­­This gave young Rockwell a lot to think about: Leyendecker’s first version was perfectly acceptable; it just wasn’t 100 percent what it could have been. Leyendecker seemed to spend a lot of time starting over in search of that elusive missing five percent.

Leyendecker’s high standards made Rockwell nervous about showing his own work to the master. Rockwell wrote, “You never asked Joe…what he thought of your painting unless you wanted a real critique; he thought nothing of starting a picture over again.”

But when it was Rockwell’s turn to become a professional illustrator, it seems he had learned the lesson. He painted “100%” in gold at the top of his easel to remind himself never to give anything less. That philosophy kept Rockwell at his easel seven days a week painting countless studies in order to get the details right. If he’d been willing to accept 95 percent, Rockwell could’ve worked faster, made more money and spent more time with his family. But he learned the lesson of Leyendecker, and that’s why people still remember him and admire his work today.

Featured image: Painting by J.C. Leyendecker. Photo courtesy of David Apatoff

Rockwell Video Minute: The Holdout

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Featured image: Norman Rockwell / SEPS