Norman Rockwell ( 1894 - 1978)

Norman Rockwell, born in New York City in 1894, possessed an unwavering passion for art from a young age. At the tender age of 14, Rockwell embarked on his artistic journey by enrolling in art classes at The New York School of Art. Seeking further artistic education, he left high school at the age of 16 to study at The National Academy of Design. Later, he joined The Art Students League, where he honed his skills under the guidance of renowned instructors Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration provided Rockwell with the necessary foundation for his initial commercial commissions, while Bridgman imparted invaluable technical expertise that would shape his illustrious career.

Rockwell achieved early success, completing his first commission of four Christmas cards before turning sixteen. During his teenage years, he became the art director of Boys’ Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America, and embarked on a prosperous freelance career, illustrating various publications for young people.

At the age of 21, Rockwell’s family relocated to New Rochelle, New York, a community known for its talented illustrators. There, he established a studio alongside cartoonist Clyde Forsythe and began producing artwork for esteemed magazines such as Life, Literary Digest, and Country Gentleman. In 1916, at the age of 22, Rockwell painted his inaugural cover for The Saturday Evening Post, a magazine he considered to be the epitome of American showcase. This marked the beginning of a remarkable journey, as Rockwell’s works would grace the cover of the Post another 321 times over the next 47 years. In the same year, Rockwell married Irene O’Connor, but their marriage ended in divorce in 1930.

The 1930s and 1940s proved to be the pinnacle of Rockwell’s career. In 1930, he married Mary Barstow, and together they had three sons. The family relocated to Arlington, Vermont, in 1939, which significantly influenced Rockwell’s artistic focus on capturing the essence of small-town American life.

Inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to Congress, Rockwell created his renowned Four Freedoms paintings in 1943. These works, depicting Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear, resonated deeply with the public and became immensely popular. Reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post with essays by contemporary writers, the paintings toured the United States, raising over $130 million for the war effort through the sale of war bonds.

Although 1943 brought Rockwell immense success with the Four Freedoms series, it also delivered a devastating blow. A fire engulfed his Arlington studio, destroying numerous paintings and his cherished collection of historical costumes and props.

In 1953, the Rockwell family relocated to Stockbridge, Massachusetts. However, tragedy struck again when Mary Barstow Rockwell passed away unexpectedly six years later. In collaboration with his son Thomas, Rockwell published his autobiography, “My Adventures as an Illustrator,” in 1960. Excerpts from the book were featured in eight consecutive issues of The Saturday Evening Post, with Rockwell’s Triple Self-Portrait gracing the cover of the first installment.

In 1961, Rockwell married Molly Punderson, a retired teacher, and bid farewell to his 47-year association with The Saturday Evening Post. He then began working for Look magazine, where he depicted his deepest concerns and interests through his artwork, including civil rights, America’s war on poverty, and space exploration.

In 1973, Rockwell took steps to preserve his artistic legacy by establishing a trust and entrusting his works to the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical Society, which later became the Norman Rockwell Museum

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