About the Artist
“I love to tell stories in pictures. The story is the first and the last thing. That isn’t what a fine art man goes for, but I go for it.”
— Norman Rockwell
Early Life and Education
Normal Rockwell was born in Manhattan. He loved to draw from a very early age and quit high school to attend the Chase Art School at age fourteen. He then went on to study painting at the National Academy of Art and continued his studies at the Art Students League. At age seventeen, he became the Art Director of Boys’ Life magazine, published by the Boy Scouts of America, and continued to contribute cover designs for nearly sixty years.
Rockwell married his first wife, Irene O’Connor in 1916. That same year his first Saturday Evening Post cover, Boy With Baby Carriage, was published. After fourteen years, the marriage ended in divorce, but his work for the Saturday Evening Post lasted for 47 years. Rockwell’s ability to portray the world with wit and compassion appealed to millions of Americans, who looked forward to seeing the next Saturday Evening Post cover, even more than than the contents of the magazine.
Family Life and Career
After his divorce, Rockwell went to California to visit a friend. While there he painted, and also met, and married, schoolteacher Mary Barstow. The couple moved to Arlington, Vermont in 1939 and then to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953. Mary died of a heart attack in 1959.
During the 1940s and 1950s, Rockwell’s paintings reflected the changing world and the impact of technology on a country that had seen war, followed by prosperity. Although the world was sometimes a frightening and uncertain place, Rockwell’s paintings were often comforting and reassuring.
Rockwell left the Saturday Evening Post and joined the staff of Look magazine. His work for Look often portrayed social and civic issues, “I was showing the America I know and observed,” he said, “for those others who might not have noticed.” His 1959 painting Jury Room was done at a time when three states still did not allow women to serve on juries.
The Problem We All Live With shows a young Ruby Bridges, the first black child to desegregate an all-white school in Louisiana, being escorted to school by U.S. Marshals. In 1961, Rockwell married Mary Punderson, who helped to establish the Norman Rockwell Museum, after his death in 1978, at age 84.
A year before his death, Rockwell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom. Two of his most ardent fans, and collectors of his works, are directors George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. Rockwell’s paintings and prints can be found in the Smithsonian and the Met and many private collections.