Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. -Norman Rockwell
It’s the week of Norman Rockwell’s birthday! Rockwell was an American painter and illustrator. Born on February 3, 1894, Rockwell created more than 4,000 original works in his lifetime. He was well known for his works reflecting on American culture, often capturing colorful experiences that draw the viewer into Americana.
Rockwell: Portrait of Americana
Rockwell always knew he wanted to become an artist. He enrolled himself at the New York School of Art when he was only 14 years old and two years later, he was commissioned to create four Christmas cards. He was also hired at Boys’ Life magazine for Boy Scouts of America as an illustrator.
He was appointed art editor for the magazine at age 19 and continued his relationship with the publication for 64 years. Throughout his early twenties, Rockwell produced illustrations for magazines such as Life, Literary Digest, Country Gentleman, and the Saturday Evening Post, which featured Rockwell’s work on its cover 321 times.
Rockwell At War
During World War I, Rockwell attempted to enlist in the United States Army and was given the role of a military artist. During World War II in 1943, Rockwell painted his “Four Freedoms” series. The series was inspired by a speech by Franklin D. Roosevelt and took him seven months to complete.
The four principles were shown in this series: Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, and Freedom from Fear.
The United States Department of Treasury promoted war bonds by exhibiting these original paintings in 16 cities. Rockwell was also commissioned to illustrate the books Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, which are only two of the 40 books he was commissioned to illustrate throughout his career.
“Kitsch” vs. “Rockwellesque”
Though his work is often called “kitsch” by art critics, Rockwell’s work was seen all over America. It is no question that his work was well liked by many. The term “Rockwellesque” is often used to describe idealistic or sentimentalized portrayals of American life.
No matter your feelings on his artwork, Norman Rockwell’s lasting legacy is still felt today. From everyone at Art Force, Happy Birthday, Norman Rockwell!