Through numerous illustrations appearing in publications such as The Saturday Evening Post and The Literary Digest, Norman Rockwell's timeless images of everyday America entered the homes of millions of people. His descriptive painting style and ability to encapsulate the traditional and nearly universal values shared in the American experience contributed to his tremendous popularity and rendered him hugely successful. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter serves as a primary example of Rockwell's skillful ability to present an enduring and heartwarming image that continues to resonate with the public even decades after its creation.
At the age of eighteen, in 1912, Rockwell had his own studio in New York City and was supporting himself doing advertising work for local companies. During his tenure as Art Editor at Boy's Life, Rockwell was granted access to several other periodicals and soon found himself working freelance by providing covers and story illustrations for many other magazines. During the late 1910s, illustration jobs were becoming increasingly competitive as magazines were incorporating more photographic images into their layout and rising costs in book publishing were limiting opportunities for illustrators in that field. It is probably due only to his talent and drive that Rockwell was largely unaffected by this trend. "At an age when most young men are leaving college, Norman already ranked as one of America's leading illustrators." (A.L. Guptill, Norman Rockwell: Illustrator, New York, 1946, p. 72)
In 1916, one of Rockwell's illustrations appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post for the first time. This great achievement was a windfall for the artist leading to commissions from a variety of magazines, including Collier's, The Literary Digest and Life. "By 1938, Rockwell's illustrations--on calendars, in books and magazines, tacked up on bedroom walls, often framed--were a familiar presence in the American home and had been for a long time." (S. Murray, Norman Rockwell At Home in Vermont: The Arlington Years, 1939-53, Bennington, Vermont, 1997, p. 5) Although at times filled with self-doubt, Rockwell was innately aware of the public's interest, wants and needs and ceaselessly delivered highly marketable works with incredible proficiency and alacrity.
Recognizing the readership's nostalgia for childhood innocence, Rockwell produced The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter for the cover of the July 28th, 1923 issue of The Literary Digest. The present work is a charming depiction of a little girl sewing a button onto her father’s coat. Focused and determined, the girl, with feet that barely reach the ground, intently goes about her task. The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter is executed in Rockwell's signature descriptive style of finely drawn, clear realism with a wealth of fascinating detail. In discussing his career, Rockwell commented, "I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. And perhaps, therefore, this is one function of the illustrator. He can show what has become so familiar that it is no longer noticed. The illustrator thus becomes a chronicler of his time." (as quoted in Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. xii) With The Lighthouse Keeper’s Daughter, Rockwell succeeds in capturing the nostalgia of childhood that is as familiar today as it was nearly a century ago when he painted this charming work.