From 1948 through 1964, Norman Rockwell was commissioned by Brown & Bigelow to illustrate their annual Four Seasons calendar. Each calendar focused on a single theme, and Rockwell’s four illustrations presented various seasonal activities. Landscapes: Sledding was included in the 1959 calendar as the winter illustration. The spring illustration features boys and girls departing school at the end of the day; summer presents a boy, seated atop a fence with his dog by his side, watching a train move across the landscape and autumn shows school children walking past the local swimming hole and reluctantly returning to the classroom. Rockwell painted Landscapes: Sledding in 1959, a time when he was thoroughly committed to the use of photography in his creative process. Indeed, the artist took nearly forty preparatory images for the present work, including a shot of himself posing for the central figure. Rockwell also produced two oil studies for Landscapes: Sledding, one of which is in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Landscapes: Sledding encompasses many of the themes that define the artist’s long career as America’s storyteller. Rockwell noted, “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 this time.” (as quoted in L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. xii) With the present work, Rockwell succeeds in capturing the nostalgia of childhood and the sense of community that is as familiar today as it was when he painted this captivating work.