[American Illustrator, 1894-1978]
Born in 1894 in New York City, he transferred from high school to the Chase Art School at the age of 16. He then went on to the National Academy of Design, and finally, to the Art Students League, where he was taught by Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Rockwell's early works were done for St. Nicholas Magazine, the Boy Scouts of America publication Boys' Life, and other juvenile publications.
As a student, Rockwell was given smaller, less important jobs. His first major breakthrough came in 1912 at age 18 with his first book illustration for C.H. Claudy's Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature.
The front of Norman Rockwell's preserved studio.During the First World War, he tried to enlist into the U.S. Navy but was refused entry because, at 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 140 pounds (64 kg), he was eight pounds underweight. To compensate, he spent one night gorging himself on bananas, liquids and donuts, and weighed enough to enlist the next day. However, he was given the role of a military artist and did not see any action during his tour of duty.
Rockwell moved to New Rochelle, New York at age 21 and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe's help, he submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916, Boy with Baby Carriage (published on May 20). He followed that success with Circus Barker and Strongman (published on June 3), Gramps at the Plate (August 5), Redhead Loves Hatty Perkins (September 16), People in a Theatre Balcony (October 14) and Man Playing Santa (December 9). Rockwell was published eight times total on the Post cover within the first twelve months.
Rockwell's success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of the day, most notably The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, Leslie's, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly and Life magazine.
Rockwell married his first wife, Irene O'Connor, in 1916. Irene was Rockwell's model in Mother Tucking Children into Bed, published on the cover of The Literary Digest on January 19, 1921. However, the couple divorced in 1930. He quickly remarried schoolteacher Mary Barstow, with whom he had three children: Jarvis, Thomas and Peter. In 1939, the Rockwell family moved to Arlington, Vermont, which seemed to inspire him to paint scenes of everyday, small town American life.
The rear of Norman Rockwell's preserved studio.In 1943, during the Second World War, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms series, which was completed in seven months and resulted in his losing 15 pounds. The series was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had declared that there were four principles for universal rights: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear. The paintings were published in 1943 by The Saturday Evening Post. The U.S. Treasury Department later promoted war bonds by exhibiting the originals in 16 cities.
That same year a fire in his studio destroyed numerous original paintings, costumes, and props. Later, in 1953, his wife Mary died unexpectedly, which resulted in Rockwell taking time off to grieve. It was during this break that he and his son Thomas produced his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, which was published in 1960. The Post printed excerpts from this book in eight consecutive issues, the first containing Rockwell's famous Triple Self-Portrait.
Rockwell married his third wife, retired schoolteacher Molly Punderson, in 1961. His last painting for the Post was published in 1963, marking the end of a publishing relationship that had included 321 cover paintings. He spent the next 10 years painting for Look Magazine, where his work depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration.
Photographic portrait of RockwellDuring his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of other world figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru.
Norman's ability to "get the point across" in one picture, and his flair for painstaking detail made him a favorite of the advertising industry. He was also commissioned to illustrate over 40 books including the ever-popular Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. His annual contributions for the Boy Scouts' calendars (1925 – 1976), were only slightly overshadowed by his most popular of calendar works: the "Four Seasons" illustrations for Brown & Bigelow that were published for 17 years beginning in 1947. and reproduced in various styles and sizes since 1964. Illustrations for booklets, catalogs, posters (particularly movie promotions), sheet music, stamps, playing cards, and murals (including "Yankee Doodle Dandy", which was completed in 1936 for the Nassau Inn in Princeton, New Jersey) rounded out Rockwell's œuvre as an illustrator. In his later years, Rockwell began receiving more attention as a painter when he chose more serious subjects such as the series on racism for Look.
A custodianship of 574 of his original paintings and drawings was established with Rockwell's help near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the museum is still open today between May and October every year. Rockwell received in 1977 the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country", the United States of America's highest civilian honor. The following year Rockwell died of emphysema at the age of 84.