Life & Legacy
Rockwell was born in New York City on February 3, 1894. A budding talent in his youth, he attended art school in Manhattan and was commissioned to paint Christmas cards at the age of fifteen. By nineteen, he became the art director for Boys’ Life and by twenty-two created his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post — a publication he would go on to create 322 covers for over the course of his career.
Providing art for a number of magazines, as well as book covers, advertisements, movie posters, and calendars, Rockwell’s style set the standard for commercial illustrators. His work was eagerly anticipated and beloved by the public.
“Right from the beginning, I always strived to capture everything I saw as completely as possible.”
In 1939, Rockwell and his family moved from New Rochelle, New York to Arlington, Vermont, where he quickly adapted to the New England countryside. Inspired by his surroundings, he would have his neighbors serve as models, capturing the nuances of their expressions and the authenticity of small-town America.
Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were inspired by an address to Congress by President Roosevelt in 1943. The paintings were reproduced in the Post and elevated his status with the public. An exhibition toured the country, raising more than $130 million in war bonds.
In 1953, the family moved again to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where Rockwell spent the rest of his life. With the help of his son Thomas, he published an autobiography in 1960, excerpts of which were carried in the Post along with his famous Triple Self-Portrait.
Four Freedoms and Triple Self-Portrait illustrations © SEPS. Courtesy of Curtis Licensing. All rights reserved.
“I just wanted to do something important.”
By the mid-60s, Rockwell was delving deeper into the American experience with Look magazine. He captured our fascination with the space race, but also highlighted some of our biggest dilemmas, like poverty and racism. This brought him more attention as a serious artist and cemented his legacy — his iconic The Problem We All Live With was displayed in the White House in 2011.
He left behind a trove of paintings which have been exhibited across the country and around the world, the largest collection now residing in Stockbridge, Massachusetts at the Norman Rockwell Museum.