Friday, March 11, 2022

Norman Rockwell

 His Art Lives On . . .by Martha Rogers      

As a child growing up in the 1940's, I remember my grandfather and his Saturday Evening Post magazines. He loved Norman Rockwell, and I grew to love them as well. I'd always rush in to see Grandpa and ask him right off where the new issue was, and it was always by his chair.

Over the years that love grew, and now I have a collection of items based on his paintings. When the opportunity came for us to go to New England in 1999, one place went on my must see list, and that was Stockbridge, Massachusetts. 

Here is the scrapbook from which I took the picture up above. 

This remarkable artist was born in New York on February 3, 1894 to Jarvis and Anne Rockwell. From the type of art he produced, many may believe he grew up in the country, but he grew up in the city of his birth where he experienced the violence of neighborhood gangs. His family liked to spend holidays in the country, and from that the artist developed his idyllic vision of rural life. 

He exhibited his talent at the early age 14, he enrolled in art classes at what is now The New York School of Art. Two years later, in 1910, he enrolled at the National Academy of Design, but then he soon transferred to The Art Students League. There he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. He received instruction in illustration from Fogarty, and that led Rockwell to his first commercial commissions. He also learned technical techniques, on which he would rely for his career, from Bridgman. His goal in school was not to become a painter but a professional illustrator.

Success came early when at age 16 he started professionally illustrating greeting card themes. He also illustrated a book, Tell-Me-Why: Stories about Mother Nature by C.H. Claudy. From there he collaborated with young magazines such as Boy's Life. His first cover was Scout at Ship's Wheel in 1913, and by 1914, Rockwell became an artistic director for the magazine at age 19.

At the age of 22 in 1916, Rockwell painted his first Saturday Evening Post cover. Rockwell is quoted as saying the magazine was "the greatest show window in America."

In 1916, he married Irene O'Connor, but they divorced in 1930.  He married again after Irene. He and Mary Barstow Rockwell had three sons, Jaris, Thomas, and Peter. He moved his family to Arlington, Vermont in 1939 where he began his works that reflected small-town American life. Below is a picture of Norman and Mary Barstow. They were not regular church goers but were members of St. John's Wilmont Church near his home, and where his sons were baptized.
In 1953, they moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, so his wife could be treated at a psychiatric hospital, the Austin Riggs Center. He also received treatment and once said that he painted happiness, but he did not live it. Then in 1959, Mary died suddenly of a heart attack. He did remarry once again to Mary "Mollie" Punderson in 1961. 

When WWll started, Rockwell was commissioned to paint a series of covers featuring a recruit named Willie Gillis. The paintings, from 1941 to 1946, described the life of an American boy starting with his first day in uniform and on until his happy return home. No combat images were used. Instead Rockwell chose the soldier's ideal rather than war. 

President Franklin Roosevelt's speech in Congress on the four fundamental freedoms inspired Rockwell to paint his now familiar The Four Freedoms.              First published in 1943, they were reproduced into thousands of posters and exhibited in cities across America. Too old to serve in the army, Rockwell saw this as his way of helping America win the war. This is my favorite one. Freedom from Want

By Norman Rockwell - U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain,

He ended his collaboration with the Post in 1964 and began a new work experience with Look and illustrated for them for over ten years. His main interests in those years represented his deep interest in civil rights, poverty, the Viet Nam war and the conquest of space. In 1977 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom which his son Jaris received for him.

He spent many years in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where he had a studio. Below is Rockwell at the door to his red studio. I have a model of it along with the Main street collection.

One of his paintings is Main Street and depicts the shops of that street in Stockbridge. That's the town where he died in 1978 due to complications of emphysema. First lady Rosalyn Carter attended that funeral. Below is a section of re-creation of Main Street in a collection of the buildings in the painting. I have the painting so that I can get the buildings in the right order. A few others have been added including a church, his studio, and home. All are numbered and labeled from the Hawthorne Authorized Collection.

I will always remember the great trip to Stockbridge where we visited the stores and toured his studio. 

If you ever have a chance to visit Stockbridge, do so. It is a marvelous experience to see all of Rockwell's paintings in the museum and walk the streets he so beautifully depicted. 

Are familiar with Norman Rockwell and his paintings? If so, do you have any you particularly like?

The first book in my new series, Treasure Quest, is now available. 

In Treasure for the Heart, Addie Wingate discovers a letter from her great-grandfather while searching for books in their attic. The reference to a great treasure and a cryptic poem leads her on a search for the treasure, but what she finds on the way may turn out to be more valuable than any treasure she could uncover on the ranch where she lives.  

Martha Rogers is a multi-published author and writes a weekly devotional for ACFW. Martha and her husband Rex live in Houston, Texas where they are active members of First Baptist Church. They are the
parents of three sons and grandparents to eleven grandchildren and great-grandparents to six. Martha is a retired teacher with twenty-eight years teaching Home Economics and English at the secondary level and eight years teaching Freshman English at the college level. She is a member of ACFW, ACFW WOTS chapter in Houston, and serves as President of the writers’ group, Inspirational Writers Alive. 


  1. Thank you for posting this morning! I love Norman Rockwell too. I can't say I have a favorite because his style is just so iconic that all of the art he produced is endearing. I didn't realize that his life wasn't as happy as his paintings, or that he was a city boy. And he was so young when he started illustrating for the Post. That is amazing. By the way, I love your little village!!

    1. I know what you mean. I couldn't really say I have a favorite, but the one I posted of the Thanksgiving dinner always reminds me of my grandparents. I couldn't get all of the village into the picture, but there's enough to know what it's like. I did add a few extra pieces I bought at the same time.

  2. thank you for posting about this wonderful author. many years ago before I got married, my chiropractor had one of his paintings in his office. It was a little boy standing on a stool while the doctor looked him over. I love that one to this day. The expressions of both the boy and doctor are wonderful. This took me on a quest to find out about more of his paintings.

  3. There is another tiny town in Vermont that houses a Rockwell museum. I went there several times while I lived in upstate NY. Like you, I loved the Saturday Evening Post, especially the cartoons they'd put in it. We get a Norman Rockwell calendar every year. He was an American classic!

  4. We were in Vermont, but I missed that town. I still had a few old Norman Rockwell calendars, but they got lost somewhere in one of our moves. I need to check into finding another one. Thanks for stopping by.