Everyday Life Americana
To me, Norman Rockwell perfectly depicts the US of A as we know it. At least before we went there. I am an absolute fan when it comes to just about anything from the other side of the pond. Well, except of course the out-of-this-world opinions about many important issues like religion, Europe, their own position, war, etc..Anyway. America always brings out the best of feelings and it all started with that first glance on Rockwell's work.
People never figured out whether he was an illustrator first or an artist. In my opinion both can be the same, especially when it comes down to Norman Rockwell. His fame came by drawing cover illustrations of everyday American life in The Saturday Evening Post. During this period he produced series like Willie Gilles, Saying Grace and Four Freedoms that gave him his place among the greats.
A cover of The Saturday Evening Post is still a hunters treasure these days. And when you look very closely, you see it looks similar to The Heritage Post covers in our Ink on Paper section.
Willie Gillis was a freckle-faced All-American character who served as one of Rockwell's main cover boys during World War II.The Gillis character is widely referred to as an everyman who epitomized the typical American World War II Soldier. Rockwell created Gillis in 1940 as the Second World War was escalating and Americans were enlisting or being drafted. Gillis was truly seen as the typical G.I. and Rockwell's wartime art remains quite popular: his signed original May 29, 1943 depiction of Rosie the Riveter sold at a auction for $4,959,500.The Gillis character endures generations later for literary and artistic comparison.
Rockwell's 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 ten years painting for Look Magazine, where his work depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration. In 1968, Rockwell was commissioned to do an album cover portrait of the great Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper (two of my musical heroes) for their record The Live adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper. During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon as well as those of foreign figures, including Nasser and Nehru. One of his last works was a portrait of Judy Garland in 1969.
Norman Rockwell was a prolific artist, producing over 4,000 original works in his lifetime. Most of his works are either in public collections, or have been destroyed in fire or other misfortunes. Rockwell was also commissioned to illustrate over 40 books including Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. His annual contributions for the Boy Scouts' calendars between 1925 and 1976, were only slightly overshadowed by his most popular of calendar works: the "Four Seasons" illustrations that were published for 17 years beginning in 1947 and reproduced in various styles and sizes since 1964. He also painted six images for Coca-Cola’s advertising.
Next to the typical turkey-carving works he produced, it was also the downside of the American culture he depicted. Let us end this short homage to a great artist with The Problem We All Live With. It says everything about what matters in life: education. The thing we need to start understanding each other and start valuing the lives of others. Read a book so you can read a mind!
Have a look at that great book on Rockwell (reissued due to great succes) by Taschen Verlag on Eksturstore.