Norman Rockwell is one of the most popular American artists of the 20th century and a beloved local hero of the Berkshires. In all, he created over 4,000 studies and final works of art for stories, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars, and books, many of them during the last twenty-five years of his life spent at his studio in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
Rockwell's greatest legacy is his 47-year contribution of 321 works to the covers of the Saturday Evening Post, one of the most reputable periodicals of its time. The Post gave Rockwell access to a larger audience than that of any other artist in history, and his work became so popular that 50,000 to 75,000 additional copies of the magazine would sell when a Rockwell illustration was featured on the cover.
Rockwell's touching, observant and often humorous portrayals of small-town American life appealed to a mass audience during turbulent times. While he referred to himself an illustrator, his almost photographic attention to detail ranks him with the masters of realist art. He was commissioned to paint the portraits of many world leaders, including Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt and Jawaharlal Nehru of India.
During the Second World War, Rockwell painted the “Four Freedoms” series, based on the four principles pronounced in a 1941 speech by President Roosevelt and incorporated into the Atlantic Charter. Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, and Freedom from Fear accompanied essays by contemporary American writers in four consecutive issues of The Post, and a 16-city tour of the originals by the Treasury Department to promote the sale of war bonds raised almost $133 million for the war effort.
In the later years of his life, Rockwell left the Post and began to paint for Look Magazine. In a bold departure from the nostalgic and patriotic themes which had previously characterized his work, he now created powerful pieces which expressed his deep concern for civil rights and the war on poverty.
In 1977, President Gerald R. Ford presented Rockwell with the country's highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country." The residents and locales of Stockbridge are eternally woven into these classic depictions of rural America, and the town proudly celebrates Mr. Rockwell's legacy.
Early in December, Stockbridge residents annually recreate the scene which was the subject of a Norman Rockwell painting, Home for Christmas (1967). As in the painting, a red car carrying a Christmas tree drives through town where antique cars line the streets and residents dress up in 60s-style clothes to complete the scene.
In 1973, Rockwell established a trust to preserve his artistic legacy by placing his works in the custodianship of the Old Corner House Stockbridge Historical Society, later to become the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. The trust now forms the core of the museum’s permanent collections. In 1976, in failing health, Rockwell became concerned about the future of his studio. He arranged to have his studio and its contents added to the trust. Norman Rockwell died peacefully at his home in Stockbridge on November 8, 1978, at the age of 84.
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Website of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge - Houses the world's largest and most significant collection of original Rockwell art. Highlights include enduring favorites from Rockwell's Saturday Evening Post covers, the powerful Four Freedoms, and the nostalgic Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas.
Massachusetts Online Travel Journal: Norman Rockwell’s Stockbridge - describes Stockbridge’s influence on Rockwell’s work, and the influence of our local hero on Stockbridge.
Seven Arts Norman Rockwell Collectibles, located on the Main Street of Stockbridge - Visitors from all over the world regularly flock to Stockbridge to enjoy the unspoiled beauty of Norman Rockwell's town. Thanks to the internet, we can now bring a tiny portion of our village directly to you.
Website of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Vermont - Nationally recognized collection of Norman Rockwell's art, established in 1976, commemorates Norman Rockwell's Vermont years and the entire span and diversity of his career. www.normanrockwellvt.com/
Berkshire Historical Society - non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and promotion of the region’s history
The Norman Rockwell Estate Licensing Company - exclusive licensing representative for Norman Rockwell family
Official Norman Rockwell site, authorized by the Rockwell family www.normanrockwell.com/index.php
Artcyclopedia Site – Includes many links to articles on Rockwell as well as links to searchable books of Rockwell prints
Wikipedia: Norman Rockwell
National Museum of American Illustration - Newport, Rhode Island www.americanillustration.org/html/nr/index.html
PBS American Masters - biographical information
Humanities Web: Contains quotes, selected works, suggested reading, a chronology, and a biography www.humanitiesweb.org/human.php?s=g&p=c&a=i&ID=192
Prints and Original Artwork
Lewis and Bond Print and Original Artwork site www.lewisbond.com/rockwell.html
The Norman Rockwell Connection: A general forum for Norman Rockwell and his art