The present work was published as the cover illustration for the October 1921 issue of American Magazine.
In the seven cover illustrations he created for American Magazine between 1918-23, Norman Rockwell painted one of his favorite subjects, children, with his characteristic appeal and charm. In these works, he created intimate compositions focusing on his young subjects' facial expressions in amusing situations, from poorly singing and playing the flute to falling asleep while studying and applying over-the-top makeup.
In the present work, Rockwell captures a delightful image of a young, rosy-cheeked boy trying to keep his sandwich away from his hungry canine companion. As the child, modeled by Bun Barton, giggles, the dog peeks over his shoulder to stare at the meal with wide eyes and open mouth. “A dog-lover himself, the artist realized how appealing dogs were to readers of the Saturday Evening Post and other publications, and he intentionally cast them as central figures in his compositions for cover paintings, story illustrations, advertisements, and family Christmas cards. Rockwell’s own canine companions accompanied him to the studio, and sometimes took time out to nap alongside him as he worked. He also borrowed neighbors’ dogs to serve as models, enlisting their owners to assist them in striking a pose. Offering advice to fellow artists, he coached them to portray animals ‘as carefully and understandingly’ as they paint people in their work, and filed away stores of photographic reference for his use.” (“It’s a Dog’s Life: Norman Rockwell Paints Man’s Best Friend,” www.nrm.org, 2011)
In this colorful and playful image, the inclusion of the dog is perhaps also a pun referencing the title of the article it first appeared above when published–Dr. Frank Crane’s personality and politeness test, “Are You Well Bred?”