Norman Rockwell

For the first half of the 20th century, the United States was a place of great social and economic change. Rapid industrialisation, two World Wars, the burgeoning Civil Rights movement and the Great Depression all contributed to a sense of a nation in flux. The iconic paintings and magazine illustrations of Norman Rockwell portray a different, less disconcerting America.

Evocative of simpler, more innocent times — of Thanksgiving dinners and innocent soda-fountain encounters — even when depicting the weary GI’s battlefield cigarette, they are imbued with what one critic called ‘a shovelful of stardust’. One of America’s most beloved artists, Rockwell produced some of the USA’s most iconic 20th-century artworks and defined the way we perceive a certain period in American culture.

Rockwell was born in New York City in 1894 and studied at the Chase School of Art, the National Academy of Design and the Arts Students League in New York. His career began early; in his teens he worked on Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America, and illustrated other children’s publications. By 1916, he had his first cover illustration for the weekly, Saturday Evening Post, and, though his work would be printed by the likes of Literary Digest, Life and Look, it was with the Post that his name became synonymous.

In the 1940s, as Europe fell to the Nazis, Rockwell produced his masterpiece sequence, Four Freedoms, a fierce defence of liberty in a world increasingly darkened by tyranny. Rockwell’s aesthetic, with its air of vulnerability and innocence, was a perfect vessel for social commentary and humanitarian agitprop, and had a huge impact on the political opinion of the country.

The majority of his work in the post-war years — such as First Trip to the Beauty Shop (1972) — would be filled with his hallmark humour and pathos, or else record notable civic moments, such as his portrait of astronauts, Grissom and Young (1965). Yet he would continue to paint important socially-motivated pieces, culminating in his Civil Rights masterpiece, The Problem We All Live With (1963). Rockwell died in 1978.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

The Rookie (Red Sox Locker Room)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

What Makes It Tick? (The Watchmaker)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Willie Gillis: Hometown News

NORMAN ROCKWELL (1894-1978)

Jeff Raleigh's Piano Solo ("'Oh Lord,' Jeff said prayerfully, 'I wish Alice was here. Oh, I wish she could hear this...'") (The Virtuoso)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Dreams of Long Ago

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Girl Returning from Camp

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Extra Good Boys and Girls

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

The Thing to Do With Life is Live It! (Outrigger Canoe)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Barefoot Boy Daydreaming

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Spirit of America

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Boy with Two Dogs (Raleigh Rockwell Travels)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

The Christmas Coach

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Harvest Moon (Young Lovers on a Hay Rick)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Mathew Brady Photographing Lincoln

NORMAN ROCKWELL (1894-1978)

Portrait of Jackie Kennedy

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Comfort in Safety

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

The Artist's Daughter (Little Girl with Palette at Easel)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Deer Santy Claus

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Landscapes: Sledding

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Tender Years: Mowing the Lawn

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'Elect Casey'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Little Boy and Beagle

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

The Lighthouse Keeper's Daughter

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Laughing Boy with Sandwich and Puppy (Hungry Buddies)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Mistletoe and a Milky Way

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Merry Christmas: Concert Trio

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Waiting for the Art Editor

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Good for Young and Old

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'Which One?'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Tides of Memory "Linda's dream was yours and mine--but her ship came in...and through the front door"

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Norman Rockwell Paints the Soda Jerk

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Studies for 'Couple with Milkman': A Pair of Works

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

A Trench Spade (Soldiers Playing Cards)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

"Max simply walked up that pier, pulling that fish through the water by main force."

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'Boy and Father: Baseball Dispute'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'Four Sporting Boys: Basketball'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

A Study for 'Yankee Doodle'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'Music Hath Charms'

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Keeping His Course (Exeter Grill)

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Study for 'The Runaway'