Norman Rockwell

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Norman Rockwell (until 1921)

Norman Percevel Rockwell (born February 3, 1894 in New York , † November 8, 1978 in Stockbridge , Massachusetts ) was an American painter and illustrator of the early 20th century. For more than 40 years he created a total of 322 covers for the Saturday Evening Post , which made him very popular. He is also known for his illustrations, calendars and covers of Boys' Life magazine for the major American youth association Boy Scouts of America . Rockwell's work is considered both American patriotic and commercial and can be counted among Americana . To this day they have just as ardent followers, including the American Presidents Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton , as well as critical despisers who describe his work as kitsch . In any case, Rockwell is one of the most influential and well-known artists in American history.

life and career

Even as a child, Norman Rockwell was passionate about drawing. At the age of 14 he made regular trips from his family's home in Westchester County to Manhattan to attend art classes at the Chase Art School . Eventually he left high school at the age of 15 to study art first at the National Academy School and later at the Art Students League of New York . There he met Thomas Fogarty, among others, who helped him to the post of art director of Boys' Life magazine in 1913 . Three years later, at the age of 22, Rockwell introduced himself to the Saturday Evening Post as an illustrator, which published his first cover that same year. Also in 1916, Rockwell married Irene O'Connor. He joined the US Navy in 1918, but continued to make money doing illustrations for the post office . A few years later, Rockwell experimented with "modern" art at the Art Academy in Paris , but his editor at the Post did not tolerate it . In addition to his post covers, he also illustrated the Boy Scout calendars from 1924 onwards . After several personal and professional crises, Rockwell divorced his first wife in 1930 and soon married Mary Barstow. Rockwell travels extensively over the next nine years and the family moves several times. During the years of World War II , Rockwell created many works that were intended to support the war effort and morale and were used for propaganda purposes. In 1941, Rockwell's first solo exhibition was opened at the Milwaukee Art Institute , although it went unnoticed. Under the direction of a new art director from the Post , Rockwell's style became increasingly detailed from 1943 to 1944 . In addition, its popularity is increasing, for example a two-part article appears in the New Yorker in 1945 and in 1946 his first monograph , published by Arthur Guptill, becomes a bestseller . His popularity gives Rockwell more and more influence, he is one of the founders of the Famous Artist School of Westport (Connecticut) , which trains budding illustrators, among other things.

After his success with the cover picture Saying Grace , which adorned the Thanksgiving edition of the Post in 1951, the artist, increasingly criticized as trivial, continued to suffer from depression and the family moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts . His second wife died there in 1959. In 1960 Rockwell's memoirs appeared as a sequel in the Post, and the collected version My Adventures as an Illustrator also became a bestseller. After 47 years with the Post , his last cover picture for this magazine appears in 1963, and a year later he deals with current social issues in his work for Look magazine . In the late 1960s, his works were exhibited more and more often, including in the Danenberg Galleries in New York, but he was again met with harsh criticism. In 1976 Rockwell's last cover photo was published for American Artist magazine, and after he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Gerald Ford in 1977 , he died in 1978 at the age of 84 from emphysema . The first lady Rosalynn Carter was present at his funeral.

Famous works

Ruby Bridges (2nd from right) with President Obama in front of The Problem We All Live With at the White House

Rockwell created over 2000 works in total, but many of them have not survived. Most of his pictures show everyday, realistically painted scenes of an often idealized American lifestyle , but there are also socially critical looking pictures of Rockwell such as The Problem We All Live With or Southern Justice .

In 1943 he created Rockwell's most famous works, the four individual images Four Freedoms ( The Four Freedoms ), which were inspired by a speech by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on the subject of freedom.

In May 1943, Rockwell's Rosie the Riveter became the cover of an issue of The Saturday Evening Post . The picture shows a rather muscular shipyard worker who is sitting on a scaffolding beam in front of a US flag during a snack break. The feet of the woman with a large rivet pistol and various decorations in work clothes rest carelessly on a copy of Hitler's Mein Kampf . The accompanying painting is on display at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville . It was bought at auction house Sotheby’s in 2002 for almost five million dollars and is a well-known cultural icon in the USA.

In 1964 he created an image with The Problem We All Live With that attacks racial segregation in the southern United States. The enrollment of a black schoolgirl, Ruby Bridges, which was enforced by court order in 1960 at an originally only white school in Louisiana, has to be enforced by Federal Marshals while racist slogans can be read on a wall behind her. President Barack Obama had a copy of the painting hung in the White House in 2011 .

In Germany, Rockwell's Santa Claus is particularly popular, which is published every year at Christmas in the Welt am Sonntag along with the article Is there a Santa Claus? is printed.

Main work

  • Scout at Ship's Wheel (first cover illustration of Boys' Life , September 1913)
  • Santa and Scouts in Snow (1913)
  • Boy and Baby Carriage (1916; first Saturday Evening Post cover)
  • Circus Barker and Strongman (1916)
  • Gramps at the Plate (1916)
  • Redhead Loves Hatty Perkins (1916)
  • People in a Theater Balcony (1916)
  • Tain't You (1917; first Life magazine cover)
  • Cousin Reginald Goes to the Country (1917; first Country Gentleman Cover)
  • Santa and Expense Book (1920)
  • Mother Tucking Children into Bed (1921; model by his first wife, Irene)
  • No Swimming (1921)
  • Santa with Elves (1922)
  • Doctor and Doll (1929)
  • Deadline (1938)
  • The Four Freedoms (1943)
    • Freedom of Speech (1943)
    • Freedom of Worship (1943)
    • Freedom from Want (1943)
    • Freedom from Fear (1943)
  • Rosie the Riveter (1943)
  • Going and Coming (1947)
  • Bottom of the Sixth (or The Three Umpires ; 1949)
  • The New Television Set (1949)
  • Saying Grace (1951)
  • The Young Lady with the Shiner (1953)
  • Walking to Church (1953)
  • Girl at Mirror (1954)
  • Breaking Home Ties (1954)
  • The Marriage License (1955)
  • The Scoutmaster (1956)
  • The Runaway (1958)
  • A Family Tree (1959)
  • Triple Self-Portrait (1960)
  • Golden Rule (1961).
  • The Connoisseur (1962).
  • The Problem We All Live With (1964)
  • Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi) (1965)
  • New Kids in the Neighborhood (1967)
  • Russian Schoolroom (1967)
  • The rookie
  • Spirit of 76 (1976)


Despite some harsh criticism from the art world , Norman Rockwell is considered America's most popular artist. His works are still reproduced in large numbers on postcards and newspaper covers and now hang in museums next to recognized artists such as Picasso . His paintings fetched several million US dollars at auctions . Critics particularly question Rockwell's works because of their popularity and commercial usefulness, as well as their exaggerated portrayal of American life. His detailed, realistic style has also been criticized as illustrative rather than artistic, especially after abstract artists such as Jackson Pollock gained increasing renown in the art world. Norman Rockwell played with this image and created the work The Connoisseur (dt. The art connoisseur ) in 1962 , which shows a man standing in front of a painting in the style of Pollock. He also referred to himself as an illustrator and titled his autobiography My Adventures as an Illustrator . In this book, on p. 24, he also directly addresses the criticism of his style and motifs by saying:

" The view of life I communicate in my pictures excludes the sordid and the ugly. I paint life as I would like it to be. "

“The view of life that I communicate in my pictures excludes the morbid and ugly. I paint life the way I would like it to be. "

Most of his works as well as numerous letters, photographs and fan mail are now exhibited in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge. The museum was founded in 1969 with the help of Rockwell and his wife and is part of the American Alliance of Museums . In 1993 the museum moved into a building specially designed for this purpose by Robert A. M. Stern. Since the National Museum of American Art ( Washington, DC ) sought a modern re-evaluation of Rockwell's work in 1997 and a major traveling exhibition of Rockwell's work was under the auspices of the High Museum of Art ( Atlanta ) between 1999 and 2003 , the attitude has eased many originally disapproving critics, and Rockwell's work is being looked at more seriously in terms of style and iconography .


The American pop singer Lana Del Rey named her sixth studio album after Rockwell, the title of the album is Norman Fucking Rockwell .


  • Thomas S. Buechner: Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator , Harry N. Abrams, New York, NY 1970, ISBN 0-8109-8150-5
  • Christopher Finch : Norman Rockwell . Abbeville Press, New York 1980, ISBN 0-89659-090-9
  • Christopher Finch: Norman Rockwell's America . Abradale Press / HN Abrams, New York 1985, ISBN 0-8109-8071-1
  • Maureen H. Hennessey & Anne Knutson: Norman Rockwell - Pictures for the American People . HN Abrams Inc., New York 1999 ISBN 0-8109-6392-2
  • Karal Ann Marling: Norman Rockwell 1894–1978, America's most popular painter , Taschen, Cologne 2010, ISBN 978-3-8365-2353-0
  • Lurie Norton Moffat: Norman Rockwell: A Definite Catalog , 2 volumes, The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, MA, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, ISBN 0-9615273-1-5
  • Norman Rockwell: My Adventures as an Illustrator HN Abrams Inc., New York 1988, ISBN 0-8109-1563-4
  • Deborah Solomon: American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell . Macmillan, New York City 2013, ISBN 978-0-374-71104-7

Individual evidence

  1. P. Johnston (Ed.): Seeing high and low: representing social conflict in American visual culture. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley [et al. a.] 2006.
  2. - ( Memento of the original from November 5, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. ^ J. Loughery: Americana (Norman Rockwell at the Guggenheim, Thomas Eakins at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the winter's exhibits at the Neue Gallery) . HUDSON REVIEW (vol. 55, pp. 114-122). NEW YORK: HUDSON REVIEW INC., 2002.
  4. ^ MH Hennessey, AC Knutson: Norman Rockwell - pictures for the American people. Abrams, New York, NY 2000. Norman Rockwell exhibition itinerary: November 5, 1999 to January 30, 2000, High Museum of Art, Atlanta… November 15, 2001 to March 3, 2002, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York.
  5. ^ Allan Wallach: The Norman Rockwell Museum and the Representation of Social Conflict. In: Patricia Johnston (Ed.): Seeing high and low: representing social conflict in American visual culture. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley [et al. a.] 2006.
  6. Steven C. Munson: Selling Norman Rockwell. Commentary (vol. 110, p. 64). Commentary, New York 2000.
  7. Thomas Howing: The Great Art Contributor. In: MH Hennessey, AC Knutson: Norman Rockwell - pictures for the American people. Abrams, New York, NY 2000.
  8. a b c d e f K. A. Marling: Norman Rockwell 1894 - 1978: America's most popular painter. Taschen, Cologne [u. a.] 2005 :.
  9. Steven Heller: Rebelling Against Rockwell. In: MH Hennessey, AC Knutson: Norman Rockwell - pictures for the American people. Abrams, New York, NY 2000.
  10. ^ LC Olson: Portraits in Praise of A People: A Rhetorical Analysis of Norman Rockwell's Icons in Franklin D. Roosevelt's "Four Freedoms" Campaign. Quarterly Journal of Speech 1983 (vol. 69, pp. 15-24).
  11. MK Knight: Rosie the Riveter. Saturday Evening Post 2013 (Vol. 285, p. 94). Indianapolis: Benjamin Franklin Literary & Medical Society.
  12. ^ Robert Coles: Ruby Bridges and a Painting. In: MH Hennessey, AC Knutson: Norman Rockwell - pictures for the American people. Abrams, New York, NY 2000.
  13. [1]
  14. ^ Francis Church. (2010). Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. in: Welt am Sonntag from December 19, 2010, p. 18.
  15. Rosie the Riveter. Rosie the Riveter, accessed April 28, 2012 .
  16. ^ The Norman Rockwell collection. Me, accessed April 28, 2012 .
  17. His dripping is not bad at all in FAZ from August 9, 2016, page 11
  18. ^ Norman Rockwell: Southern Justice (Murder in Mississippi). Artchive, accessed April 28, 2012 .
  19. Jim Windolf: Keys to the Kingdom. In: Vanity fair. February 2008, accessed April 28, 2012 .
  20. ^ Rosenblum, Robert: Reintroducing Norman Rockwell . In: Hennessey, MH, & Knutson, AC (2000). Norman Rockwell - pictures for the American people. New York, NY: Abrams.
  21. Rockwell, N. (1988). Norman Rockwell: my adventures as an illustrator. (T. Rockwell, ed.). New York: Abrams [u. a.].

Web links

Commons : Norman Rockwell  - album with pictures, videos and audio files