Legendary Artist and Illustrator: Norman Rockwell

Updated on January 29, 2020
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Readmikenow enjoys writing about unique and interesting people. He likes to learn about individuals who live or have lived unusual lives.

Norman Rockwell at his studio
Norman Rockwell at his studio

Norman Rockwell was a well-known illustrator, painter as well as author. His paintings had a wide range of appeal. Rockwell's work is known for its depiction of American culture. His most memorable illustrations are the ones he created showing everyday life that were published in The Saturday Evening Post magazine. Rockwell did this for over five decades.

Book titled Tell Me Why
Book titled Tell Me Why

Early Years

Norman Percival Rockwell was born on February 3, 1894, in New York City. His mother's name was Anne Mary “Nancy,” and his father's name was Jarvis Waring Rockwell. He also had an older brother named Jarvis. At the age of 14, Rockwell transferred from high school and started attending the Chase Art School. After this, he attended the National Academy of Design. He also studied at the Art Students League. Some of his earliest work was done for the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) magazine as well as St. Nicholas Magazine. His work was also published in other youth publications. At the age of 18, he experienced his first major breakthrough. He was paid to create illustrations for a book called Tell Me Why by Carl H. Claudy. They were stories about mother nature.

Scout at ship's wheel
Scout at ship's wheel

Boy's Life

His book illustration was a huge success. He was then hired by Boy's Life magazine as a staff artist. It was a magazine published by the Boy Scouts of America. At this time, he was paid 50 dollars each month as compensation. For this, he was required to produce a completed cover as well as a set of story illustrations. It was his first paying job as an artist. He became the art editor for Boy's Life at the age of 19. He worked as an art editor for three years. During this time, he painted many special covers for the publication. This is also the time when he painted his first magazine cover. Appearing in the September of 1913 edition of Boys Life, it was titled Scout at Ship's Wheel.

Sharp Harmony
Sharp Harmony

The Saturday Evening Post

When Rockwell was 21, his family moved to New Rochelle, New York. This is when Rockwell was able to meet with cartoonist Clyde Forsythe who worked for the Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell was able to successfully submit his first cover to the magazine with the help of Forsythe. It was published on Mother's Day in 1916. During the first year of working with The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell's work was published eight times. During his career, Rockwell would publish over 322 covers in more than 46 years. Rockwell's image of a barber with three clients who are enjoying an a Capella song was called Sharp Harmony. It was adopted by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing in America, Inc. (SPEBSQSA) to promote barbers shop singing.

Boy Scouts of America illustration by Norman Rockwell
Boy Scouts of America illustration by Norman Rockwell

More Boy's Life

Rockwell left his position with Boy's Life but would continue to use scouts in the artwork he provided for The Saturday Evening Post. In 1926, he started working with the Boy Scouts of America once again. This is when he started creating his original illustrations for the official annual calendar of the Boy Scouts of America. Many of them can be seen in Cimarron, New Mexico at the National Scouting Museum.

World War I

Norman Rockwell was refused an enlistment to the U.S. Navy because he was 6 feet tall and only weighed 140 pounds. Rockwell was determined to not be too underweight to serve in the military. He responded by spending the night gorging on doughnuts, bananas, and other liquids. The next day, he weighed enough to enlist in the U.S. Navy. During World War I, he worked at a military artist. During his military service, Rockwell didn't see any combat action.

The Four Freedoms
The Four Freedoms

World War II

During World War Two, the Four Freedoms series was painted by Rockwell. It was quite exhausting for him. He lost 15 pounds during the seven months it took for him to complete it. These paintings were based on a speech President Franklin Delano Roosevelt gave in 1941. During the speech, Roosevelt talked about his vision of the world after the war. He described it as being founded on four basic human freedoms. They were freedom from fear, freedom of speech, freedom from want and freedom of worship. These paintings were published in the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. The paintings were a huge success. There were 25,000 requests for reprints after the issue was published. An exhibition was created from the paintings to inspire people to purchase war bonds. It went to sixteen large cities and was seen by over a million people. More than 132 million dollars in war bonds were purchased.

April Fool
April Fool

The Late 1940s

Norman Rockwell would spend the winter months at Otis College of Art and Design during the late 1940s. During this time, he would use students from the college as models for his Saturday Evening Post covers. Rockwell donated one of his original Saturday Evening Post covers in 1949 to Otis College. It was called April Fool and was raffled off during a fundraiser in the college's library.

Norman Rockwell and his son working on autobiography
Norman Rockwell and his son working on autobiography
Triple Self-Portrait
Triple Self-Portrait


Norman Rockwell's second wife suddenly died in 1959. She suffered a heart attack. During this time, Rockwell took time away from his work to grieve the loss of his wife. His son Thomas worked with Rockwell to create Rockwell's autobiography. In 1960, My Adventures as an Illustrator, Norman Rockwell's autobiography was published. The Saturday Evening Post published eight consecutive issues with excerpts from the book. The first issue featuring an excerpt from the book had Rockwell's famous painting called Triple Self-Portrait.

Norman Rockwell painting picture of Ann Margaret during filming of movie Stagecoach
Norman Rockwell painting picture of Ann Margaret during filming of movie Stagecoach

End Of Saturday Evening Post Work

In 1963, the Saturday Evening Post published its last Rockwell painting. His next 10 years included painting for Look magazine. Rockwell was invited to Hollywood in 1963. He was asked to paint portraits of actors in the movie Stagecoach. He was even able to be in the movie as an extra. Rockwell played a mangy old gambler. Rockwell was commissioned to create an album cover portrait for Al Kooper and Mike Bloomfield in 1968. The name of the album was The Live Adventures of Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper.

Norman Rockwell gravesite
Norman Rockwell gravesite


On November 8, 1978, Norman Rockwell died in Stockbridge, Massachusetts at his home.


Norman Rockwell is remembered as an extremely prolific artist. During his lifetime, he produced over 4,000 original works. The Norman Rockwell Museum was opened in Stockbridge, MA. A year before his death, President Gerald Ford presented Norman Rockwell with the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He will always be remembered as a person who portrayed life in America with insight, good humor, freshness, and clarity.

Norman Rockwell Biography

© 2020 Readmikenow


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    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Paula, thanks, I agree. His work will be admired for generations.

    • fpherj48 profile image


      6 months ago from Carson City

      Mike........Rockwell is such an enormous talent. His work is displayed and appreciated the world over. I too, am a big fan. This article is excellent. Thank you for sharing your knowledge of this marvelous artist. Cheers, Paula

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      James, thanks. I agree, his work is incredible.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 

      6 months ago from Chicago

      I love your Hub and I love Norman Rockwell' work. Thank you for this delightful experience.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Liz, thanks. I enjoyed writing it.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Linda, Thanks. I enjoyed writing it. I found Norman Rockwell to be a fascinating man.

    • Eurofile profile image

      Liz Westwood 

      6 months ago from UK

      This is a fascinating biographical account. I have learnt a lot from reading this article.

    • AliciaC profile image

      Linda Crampton 

      6 months ago from British Columbia, Canada

      This is an interesting and informative article. Though I knew a little about Norman Rockwell, you've greatly increased my knowledge. I enjoyed reading the article and looking at the art very much.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Sandy, thanks for your comment. I agree that is excellent. He made so many memorable illustrations.

    • profile image


      6 months ago

      Great article. My favorite Rockwell is the Triple Self-Portrait. Thanks.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Rida, thank you for your comment.

    • RidaeFatima021 profile image

      Rida Fatima 

      6 months ago from Pakistan

      very informative and interesting article

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago


      Thanks. I enjoyed writing about such a gifted person.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Pamela, Thanks for reading it. I agree. I always believed his illustrations were very special.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      6 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Great man, great presentation and written quite nicely --- Thanks.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      6 months ago from Sunny Florida

      Norman Rockwell had an amazing life and he was certainly gifted. This is an interesting article about this man and I learned several things about Rockwell that I didn't know. You wrote a very good article about this man.

    • Readmikenow profile imageAUTHOR


      6 months ago

      Dbro, thank you so much for sharing. I agree. His illustrations were incredible.

    • Dbro profile image


      6 months ago from Texas, USA

      I love Norman Rockwell! Thank you for this interesting article about his life. I grew up being inspired by his illustrations. He is part of the reason I'm an artist and illustrator today!


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