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Norman Perceval Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations he created for The Saturday Evening Post. Producing more than 4,000 original works in his lifetime, this prolific artist masterfully idealized portrayals of American life. 


Although born to the daughter of an artist, Norman’s artistic skills may also be credited to his father, a textile manager whose talent gave him the ability to create perfect copies of magazine pictures. Norman first learned to draw from his father using those same magazines. 


Young Norman was frequently sad and longed to be an athlete like his older brother Jarvis Jr. Enamored by characters in Charles Dickens's novels, Norman escaped his daily life by imagining himself as a figure in the stories.    


When his family moved to Mamaroneck, New York, he thrived in its rural setting where the local boys found him very likable and friendly. To make money, he mowed lawns, delivered mail, and gave art lessons.  


When Norman was 14, he attended the York School of Art in New York City. Although Norman appreciated such artists as Rembrandt, Bruegel, and Vermeer, illustrating is what caught his interest. He received his first professional assignment at the age of 18. Due to his talent and penchant for hard work, in no time, he was named editor for Boy’s Life magazine, where he provided over 400 illustrations for the next six years. 


Concerned that he would be labeled a children’s illustrator only, Norman traveled to Pennsylvania to find work at the Saturday Evening Post. Although he showed up unannounced, the editor was so impressed with Norman’s work, he purchased two paintings on the spot. This first of which became the magazine cover in May of 1916.


After marrying a school teacher in 1916, the young couple moved to New Rochelle, New York, but never had children. Norman took every advertising job offered to him. With workaholic tendencies, Norman’s marriage ended after only seven years. He was single only for a short time and quickly married another school teacher.  


After marrying, Norman took a job that established him a serious artist; he illustrated Mark Twain’s, the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. So busy was he that Norman was forced to work seven days a week to keep up with the work orders.


When World War II began, Norman wanted to create a relatable character; he chose the name Willie Gillis for his World War II character. He also designed the iconic character, Rosy the Riveter. Although Norman strived to keep politics out of his work, he did do one political project that generated more than 133 million dollars in war bond funds entitled, “Four Freedoms.” 


Norman’s paintings became more realistic and less like a comic strip. After the death of his second wife, he married again to an ex-schoolteacher. Norman’s last cover for the Evening Post came out in 1963 when the Post felt that the paper needed a more modern look.


Look magazine was his next and final big job. Norman’s work took on a more political flavor. Some critics dismiss Rockwell’s work and do not consider him to be a “serious” painter, but categorize him as a mere “illustrator.” This moniker didn’t insult Norman, however. It was a designation he used to call himself.     

Rockwell died in 1978. However, people still relate to his work. His idealistic way of commemorating seasons, particularly Christmas, are sweet ideals many cling to as a reminder of simpler days gone by.  



*The Library of Congress created this biography film on Rockwell and his painting of Rosie the Riveter.

*Take a virtual tour of Norman Rockwell’s studio in this link:

*Rockwell’s fans loved to point out when he made mistakes in his magazine covers. He enjoyed these interactions and for several years created April Fools Day Covers filled with mistakes for them to discover. Visit this site to see some of the covers and find the mistakes yourself!