Norman Rockwell Biography

Norman Percevel Rockwell was born February 3, 1894 in New York.

Norman Rockwell studied at the New York School of Art (formerly the Chase School of Fine Art); the National Academy of Design in New York (1910); and the Art Students League under Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. He also spent time at the Academie Colarossi in Paris in 1923. Although an admirer of Pablo Picasso, Norman Rockwell followed the narrative genre style of William Sidney Mount and Winslow Homer. He had a studio in New Rochelle, New York, moving to Arlington, Vermont in 1939, and finally to the Berkshires, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, in 1953. In 1943 a fire destroyed his studio and many paintings in Arlington, as well as his collection of historical costumes and props. Norman Rockwell established a trust for his works in Stockbridge in 1973, later to become the Norman Rockwell Museum, which holds 367 of his works, as well as his papers and photographs used in his work.

Norman Rockwell, a prolific artist, was best known as an illustrator. His meticulous method of working involved drawing a loose sketch, and then assembling models, costumes, props and background, from which he made drawings or photographs. He continued by making a full-scale drawing or colour sketch, as a basis for the final painting. At the age of 21 he began doing illustrations for Life, Literary Digest and Country Gentleman. On May 20, 1916 he painted a cover illustration for Saturday Evening Post, the first of a series of more than 320 covers for this publication, which also published his Four Freedom paintings, inspired by Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress in 1943. These works were viewed by more than a million people in a tour throughout the USA, raising $130 million in the sale of war bonds. A 1943 cover for Saturday Evening Post of Rosie the Riveter, a woman working in the war effort, was based on the figure of Isaiah in the Sistine Chapel. He also illustrated for other magazines, including Look, Ladies’ Home Journal and McCalls.

Norman Rockwell’s work was extremely popular in the USA during the twentieth century, as it expressed the idealistic desires of the nation and portrayed kinder and simpler times, appealing to a sense of nostalgia. Norman Rockwell’s images of the daily life of ordinary people, such as Thanksgiving dinner and parents tucking children into bed, depicted a mythical vision of the ‘American dream’. His range of subjects also included the Space Age, issues of poverty, the Peace Corps and American presidents, such as The Peace Corps in Ethiopia (1966) and the oil Richard M. Nixon (1968). In the 1960s Norman Rockwell painted images with a strong sense of social consciousness, such as The Problem We All Live With, depicting an African American girl being escorted to school by safety officers past a wall showing a thrown tomato. His work has been much reproduced, particularly in calendars.  Norman Rockwell died November 8, 1978, in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, located in the Berkshires.