Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Waiting for the Art Editor

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Waiting for the Art Editor
signed 'Norman Rockwell' (lower right)
oil on canvas
44 x 42 in. (111.8 x 106.7 cm.)
Painted circa 1970.
The artist.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1976.
"Norman Rockwell Dies," Jamestown Post-Journal, Jamestown, New York, November 9, 1978, n.p., illustrated.
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. II, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 1149, no. M146, illustrated.

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Lot Essay

Prior to Norman Rockwell's reign as chief illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, the position was held by Joseph Christian Leyendecker. Twenty years Rockwell's senior, Leyendecker was long hailed as the premier modern illustrator and preceding his tenure, no other artist was so solidly identified with one publication. Painting more than 400 magazine covers, Leyendecker conceived the concept of modern magazine design while Rockwell broadened the concept to the world, thereby elevating illustration art to a standalone and respected genre within the realm of American art. Painted circa 1970, Waiting for the Art Editor encapsulates the transition at The Saturday Evening Post between the publication's two star illustrators.

Born in 1894 in New York, Rockwell witnessed the height of Impressionism as well as the development of Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. He traveled to Europe to study the art of Pablo Picasso and witnessed the move toward modernism in America by Jackson Pollack and Mark Rothko, among others. Yet despite the trends of the day, Rockwell chose to pursue a career as an illustrator, as that was where his passion lay. The artist "idolized the great artists of the golden age of illustration at the turn of the century--Howard Chandler Christy, A.B. Frost, and J.C. Leyendecker--and he was determined to join their ranks. He was accepted at the Art Students League in 1910, when the prestige of illustration was waning in favor of urban realism and the modernist avant-garde. Yet Rockwell remained true to his goal. He enrolled in classes taught by George Bridgman and the well-established illustrator Thomas Fogarty. From Fogarty, Rockwell learned the practical skills of illustration, and from Bridgman, he heard details of the lives of great "old-time" illustrators..." (J.L. Larson, M.H. Hennessey, "Norman Rockwell: A Viewpoint," in M.H. Hennessey, A. Knutson, Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, New York, 1999, p. 35)

In 1913 while still a teenager, Rockwell secured his first job as art editor for Boys' Life, the new magazine of Boy Scouts of America. He also regularly contributed to several other children's magazines but "in those days," the artist wrote, "the cover of the Post was the greatest show window in America for an illustrator. If you did a cover for the Post you arrived." (as quoted in Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, p. 36) A timorous Rockwell presented his ideas to George Horace Lorimer, editor of The Saturday Evening Post from 1899 to 1936, and much to the young artist's delight, his first Post cover was published on May 20, 1916. During his subsequent forty-seven year tenure as chief illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell produced 321 covers.

In Waiting for the Art Editor, Rockwell paints himself as a young man sitting well-postured in an editor's waiting room, gazing into the unseen distance and smiling slightly. Rockwell's body language, contemporary clothing, flowing red hair and bright eyes afford the young man a sense of youthful optimism. Juxtaposed to the spirited artist and sitting on his left is a middle-aged Leyendecker, dapperly dressed in a pin-striped suit, holding a cane and leaning slightly forward. Both artists sit side by side with their portfolios, waiting as equals for the editor's review. The scene encapsulates Rockwell's respect for the previous generation of illustrators, while at the same time it evokes a sense of the passage of time, and consequent passing-of-the-baton to the new generation of artists.

Over the course of seven decades, Rockwell produced more than 800 magazine covers and ad campaigns for over 150 companies. In doing so Rockwell became as ubiquitous to the American public as the images he created. Waiting for the Art Editor touches upon "the virtue that he [Rockwell] admires...and because he illustrates [his paintings] using familiar people in familiar settings with wonderful accuracy, he describes the American Dream." (T. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective, New York, 1972, p. 13)

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