Norman Rockwell's portraits of America are both a faithful historical record of, and a tender tribute to, American popular culture. "His subject was average America. He painted it with such benevolent affection for so many years that a truly remarkable history of our century has been compiled. Through wars, depression, civil strife, and the exploration of space, Norman Rockwell has drawn subjects from the everyday happenings of which most lives are made. Millions of people have been moved by his picture stories about pride in country, history, and heritage, about reverence, loyalty, and compassion. The virtues that he admires have been very popular, and because he illustrates them using familiar people in familiar settings with wonderful accuracy, he described the American Dream." (T.S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective, New York, 1972, p. 13) Spirit of America serves as a wonderful example of Rockwell's appreciation for the human component that represented the country that he knew and loved.
In 1970, Rockwell received a commission from the Franklin Mint to produce a series of small sketches whose themes would be used to create collector sets which were available for purchase by the public. This affiliation with the Franklin Mint proved fruitful during the early 1970s and resulted in the creation of two important oil paintings that were used to produce a limited edition print series. The two works that Rockwell painted for the Franklin Mint were The Collector (Lot 29) and the present work.
Created on an impressive scale, Spirit of America applauds the cultural diversity that makes up our great nation. "In a century of rapid social change, economic disparity, international wars, and technological advances, Rockwell's pictures helped Americans feel connected to a cultural homeland. They did so by reminding us of the details of life that were often overlooked." (J.L. Larson, M. H. Hennessey in Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, p. 64) In the present work, Rockwell has provided a visual cross-section of the nation as he has depicted a diverse group of people in profile all looking towards the right of the composition. The group is comprised of various ages, genders, and races all set against a billowing American flag with green pastures and bright blue skies in the background. The figures are arranged in an ascending fashion towards the upper right of the work, all painted with enthusiastic expressions and anticipating a bright future for the country. Taking pride in his nationality, Rockwell has even included a self-portrait and rendering of his wife at the lower left of the work.
"Rockwell's career spanned one of the most eventful periods in American history. His images convey our human shortcomings as well as our national ideals of freedom, democracy, equality, tolerance, and common decency in ways that anybody could understand. He has become an American institution." (L.N. Moffatt in M.H. Hennessey, A. Knutson, Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, exhibition catalogue, Atlanta, Georgia, 1999, p. 26). Spirit of America possesses all of the hallmarks found in Rockwell's best works and underscores the national ideals that the artist found so appealing.