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

Comfort in Safety

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Comfort in Safety
signed 'Norman/Rockwell' (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 x 22 in. (68.6 x 55.9 cm.)
Painted in 1924.
The artist.
Raybestos Company, commissioned from the above.
Summer Simpson.
Private collection, Florida, by descent.
Christie's, New York, 26 May 1999, lot 156, sold by the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
The Saturday Evening Post, January 12, 1924, p. 113, illustrated.
D.R. Stoltz, M.L. Stoltz, W.F. Earle, The Advertising World of Norman Rockwell, New York, 1986, pp. 162-63, illustrated.
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, pp. 512-13, no. A685, illustrated.

Lot Essay

The present work was published as a 1924 advertisement for Raybestos, a car brake company.

After an early career largely illustrating children’s magazines, such as Boys’ Life, Norman Rockwell published his first Saturday Evening Post cover on May 20th, 1916. Through the next years, his renown skyrocketed, and, “As his fame at the Post increased, Rockwell received a steady influx of requests from advertising executives eager to commission him to help sell products…he undertook paintings to promote Orange Crush soda and Fisk tires and Interwoven socks…Many of the ads appeared first in the Post, where Rockwell was himself a trusted brand name, the illustrator who did boys. He could reassure consumers that Jell-O (‘It’s So Simple’ the type boasted) or Carnation milk or Grape-Nuts cereal would not lead to bodily or moral dissolution.” (D. Solomon, American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell, New York, 2013, p. 108)

The present work was commissioned by the Raybestos Company for an advertisement published in the January 12th, 1924 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. Raybestos, a leading manufacturer of automobile brakes, promised consumers the safest brake linings available, and they hired Rockwell beginning in 1922 to create images that would promote their product under the guise of a public service announcement for driving safety. In characteristic Rockwell fashion, these seven clever ads, including I’m Thinking About My Kiddie (Mother with Daughter behind the Wheel) and This Bus Stops When I Jam on the Brakes! (Bus Driver), add humor and personality to what would otherwise be dry subject matter.

In Comfort in Safety, the ultimate work of this series, Rockwell depicts a young couple out for a country drive in a convertible on a beautiful day. As the car proceeds down a steep hill, the young woman in the passenger seat holds on to her companion, and the dog in the backseat sticks his head out to indulge in the breeze; yet, the driver stays calm and smiling as he knows his brakes will work when he needs them. The models for the work were two of the artist’s closest companions, his good friend and fellow illustrator, Clyde Forsythe, and his wife at the time, Irene O’Connor.

As epitomized by Comfort in Safety, “A picture by Rockwell…represented an endorsement much like Good Housekeeping magazine’s Seal of Approval. The name of Rockwell appended to a product signified wholesome, quintessentially American values. Homey, gently humorous images by this nationally famous illustrator from small-time Vermont were understood to mirror a middle-class vision of the American dream.” (V.M. Mecklenburg, Telling Stories: Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg, New York, 2010, p. 130)

More from American Art

View All
View All