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Norman Rockwell Report - Wordpress Wordpress


									Kimberly Newman

Prof. Michael Muir

ART 1020-012

1 April 2010

                                       "Norman Rockwell"

       If ever there were an artist who completely captured the charm of American culture in his

work, it would be Norman Rockwell. As an illustrator and painter, Rockwell was able to

captivate his fans for over sixty years with his quest to depict "human-looking humans."

Arguably one of the most famous commercial artists, Rockwell's work captures historical

moments and ideals while remaining seemingly timeless. Rockwell encapsulated an era in his

work. However, somehow, his pieces still seem pertinent to today's America.

       Norman Percevel Rockwell was born February 3, 1894 the second son to Jarvis Waring

and Nancy Rockwell. His family was of modest means living on Manhattans upper west side.

His father was a passionate draftsman who worked in the textile business while his mother, the

daughter of a professional artist, assumed the traditional role of the era as homemaker. At 9 years

old, Rockwell's family moved to the suburban town of Mamaroneck, New York.
       From an early age Norman displayed a genuine artistic talent. Maybe even influenced by

his maternal grandfather. At the young age of 14, in 1908, Rockwell enrolled at "Chase School

of Art" located in New York's Greenwich Village. The school has also been known as "New

York School of Art" and is still open today as "Parsons The New School For Design." When

Rockwell was 16, in 1910, he dropped out of high school during his second year to study at

"National Academy of Design" then eventually at the "Art Students League of New York" both

of these schools are also still currently thriving. The education he received at these school helped

Rockwell to develop the techniques that would take him through his entire career as an illustrator

and painter.

       It was no surprise to Rockwell or his mentors when he found

success at an extremely young age. Before his 16th birthday he had

painted four commissions of Christmas cards. As a boy himself, he

concentrated his work around children's illustrations. By the time he

was 18 (in 1912) he had become a regular contributor to "Boy's Life"

the monthly publication of the Boy Scouts of America. Within a year
                                                                             "Scout at Ships Wheel" Norman
he was given the position of art director with the magazine and held            Rockwell's first published
                                                                               magazine cover illustration,
                                                                               Boy's Life, September 1913
that position for three years (1913-1916).

       During the First World War (1914-1918), Norman Rockwell attempted to enlist into the

U.S. Navy but was denied because he was eight pounds underweight. At a slim 140 pounds and

6 feet tall, it only took Rockwell one night of binging on bananas, doughnuts and liquids to meet

his weight requirement and enlisted the very next day. He was assigned as a military artist and

never saw action during his tour of duty in the U.S. Navy.
       At the age of 21, 1915, Rockwell and his family moved to New Rochelle, New York

which, at the time, was a thriving community of artists

and famous illustrators. New Rochelle gave him the

opportunity to set up a studio with the cartoonist Clyde

Forsythe who worked for "The Saturday Evening Post."

The community of artists provided him with an ample

supply of willing people to model for his work. With the

help of his studio companion, Forsythe, in 1916

Rockwell sold his first two cover ideas to "The Saturday        "Mother's Day Off" Norman Rockwell's first
                                                                cover ,Saturday Evening Post, May 20 1916

Evening Post."

       His work with "The Saturday Evening Post" is considered the center piece of his career.

He was quoted as saying that the magazine was the "greatest show window in America." Within

the first 12 months of his relationship with "The Post" he had published 8 covers for the

magazine. His career with the "Post" spanned over 47 years of his life and consisted of 322

covers for the magazine. The year 1916 was not only good for his career as an illustrator, but

also his personal life. He married Irene O’Connor who was his model in "Mother Tucking

Children into Bed," which was published on the cover of "The Literary Digest" on January 19,

1921. During this time Rockwell published a number of illustrations and covers for, not only the

"Saturday Evening Post," but also in magazines such as "Life," "Literary Digest," and "Country

       The 1930's brought many changes for Norman Rockwell. He divorced Irene O’Connor in

1929 and in 1930 he remarried Mary Barstow. Mary was a schoolteacher and in the 30's they

welcomed three sons, Jarvis, Thomas, and Peter. His artwork changed dramatically as well. Up

until the mid 30’s Rockwell had only relied upon live models for his illustrations which had

limited him in many ways. Rockwell wrote in his autobiography, "There was a limit to the

number of sketches I could make; nor could I keep changing the pose." Most illustrators during

this time had adopted the use of the camera, but Rockwell had resisted it for years feeling that it

was an issue of morals. "It had seemed a low form of cheating, a

dishonorable crutch for lazy draftsmen, a betrayal of artistic

principles," he explained. And Rockwell wrestled with the

question of whether he was going to be an artist or a

photographer? However eventually he got over his uneasiness

and in 1935 he used photography to illustrate a new edition of

Mark Twain's "Tom Sawyer" which allowed him to photograph

poses impossible for the use of models. Furthermore,
                                                                           Illustration from Mark Twain's "Tom
                                                                              Sawyer" Norman Rockwell 1935
photography took Norman Rockwell's work to a new level.

       Norman Rockwell and his family moved to Arlington, Vermont, in 1939 where his work

began to reflect "small-town" American life. Also that year, he was awarded the "Silver Buffalo

Award" by the Boy Scouts of America, considered the highest award given by the organization.

A year later, in 1940, Rockwell publicly admitted to his use of photography in his artwork in a

magazine article.

       The year 1943 brought both success and hardship for the artist. Inspired by President

Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell painted the Four Freedoms which accompanied essays in four
consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post. His works where the interpretations of

Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom

of Want, and Freedom of Fear and became

extremely popular. His artwork toured with an

exhibition sponsored by the Post and the U.S.

Treasury Department around the United States and

helped to raise $130 million for the war effort

through the sale of war bonds. Also that year, on

May 15, 1943, Rockwell's Arlington studio was

destroyed by a devastating fire. The fire claimed

Rockwell's priceless collection of costumes and

props used by his models as well as his early camera
                                                                     "Four Freedoms" Norman Rockwell,
work, including the Tom Sawyer collection and a                         Saturday Evening Post, 1943

large number of paintings.

        Rockwell moved his family from Arlington, Vermont, to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in

1953. Although it's difficult to find information regarding the subject, it is believed that their

move to Stockbridge was initiated so Mary Barstow Rockwell could be treated at a psychiatric

hospital called the "Austen Riggs Center" just down the road from where Rockwell set up his

new studio. It's also believed that Rockwell himself received treatment at Riggs by a renowned

analyst named Erik Erikson. It is said that Erikson told Norman Rockwell that "he painted his

happiness, but did not live it." Six years later, in 1959 Mary Barstow Rockwell dies suddenly of

a heart attack.
        Prior to moving from Arlington,

Rockwell began working on my personal

favorite piece of Norman Rockwell art.

While still in Arlington, Rockwell had hired

three little girls to pose for the piece but his

model Mary Whalen was selected as the

subject. It was March 6, 1954 The Saturday

Evening Post published the cover "Girl in

Mirror." Because Rockwell moved prior to

the work being completed, Mary never saw

the finished painting until her early twenties
                                                     "Girl in Mirror" Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1954

at Bennington Museum. She remembers

seeing the painting for the first time, and says "I was just knocked over by it. I was speechless. I

just completely fell apart. - I started to cry." Mary's experience with Norman Rockwell continued

to touch her life. Much like "Girl in Mirror" will touch the lives of many for years to come.

        In collaboration with his son Thomas, Rockwell published his autobiography, "My

Adventures as an Illustrator," in 1960. He remarried in 1961 to Molly Punderson, a retired

teacher. A few years later, in 1963, his career with The Saturday Evening Post ended after 47

years and he began work for Look Magazine. For the 10 years he painted for Look his work

revolved around his most pressing concerns and subjects that interested him. Civil rights,

poverty, and space travel, to name a few. Eventually Rockwell established a trust of his art in

1973 and put his works in the custodianship of the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical

Society in Stockbridge, which was later renamed Norman Rockwell Museum. Then, due to
failing health, in 1976 he added the remaining contents of his studio to the trust. In 1977,

Rockwell received the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He

died a year later on November 8, 1978 at the age of 84 of emphysema in Stockbridge,

Massachusetts. Where, in 2008, he was appointed as the official state artist of the

Commonwealth of Massachusetts.

                              Norman Rockwell's Creative Process:

      He would begin with a series of rough sketches. Often times taking hours alone in a room

       with a stack of paper and a pencil until he came up with the perfect concept for his piece.

      He would then begin collecting the prefect props and costumes.

      Then he would hire models or recruit friends, family or neighbors to pose for the

       photographs. Rockwell always paid his models and would sometimes use several before

       he found the right subject for his art.

      He used hired photographers, rarely snapping a photograph himself. Instead he was the

       director of the photo session. Always using black and white photos as to not impede upon

       his creative process of painting later. While the photographers worried about lighting and

       technical issues, Rockwell would assure that each pose matched his vision. Often times

       showing the models several times himself, physically manipulating the models poses

       even slightly, and talking to the models to get the expressions and positions he desired.

      They would then photograph important details needed to complete the work. The arches

       of the wrists, close up of props or the face as to not lose any of the intricate details.
      Then he would use a Balopticon projector and a charcoal pencil to enlarge the photos and

       transfer the images onto canvas. Many times using multiple photos of different models

       and props to compose the piece and manipulating the images by changing the size of

       body parts or the position of the people or props.

      After roughing in the work, he would then go back and go over it in finer detail.

      Next, Rockwell would transfer his charcoal drawing onto a primed canvas. To do this, he

       used one of two methods; either he would trace the charcoal drawing onto translucent

       paper and then copy it to the canvas using transfer paper and drawing over the lines, or he

       would have his charcoal drawing photographed then projected on to the canvas where he

       could trace it directly to the canvas.

      He would then seal the drawing onto the canvas with thinned shellac.

      Now he would create a color study in the same size he intended the final piece to be. This

       way he could plan his palette of colors. In later years, and to save time, he began doing

       these color studies directly onto the reproduction sized photographs of the charcoal


      Last, was the tedious process of laying down paint for the final piece.


Schick, Ron. "Norman Rockwell Behind The Camera." 2009.

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