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Norman Percevel Rockwell (February 3, 1894 - November 8, 1978) was a 20th century American painter. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States, where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine over more than four decades. Among the best-known of Rockwell's works are Rosie the Riveter (although his Rosie was reproduced less than others of the day), Saying Grace (1951), and the Four Freedoms series.
Born on February 3, 1894, in New York City to Jarvis Waring and Nancy (Hill) Rockwell. He had one sibling, a brother, Jarvis. Rockwell transferred from high school to the Chase Art School at the age of 16. He then went on to the National Academy of Design, and finally, to the Art Students League, where he was taught by Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Rockwell's early works were done for St. Nicholas Magazine, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) publication Boys' Life, and other juvenile publications. Joseph Csatari carried on his legacy and style for the BSA.
As a student, Rockwell was given smaller, less important jobs. His first major breakthrough came in 1912 at age 18 with his first book illustration for Carl H. Claudy's Tell Me Why: Stories about Mother Nature.
Also, at age 19, in 1913, he became the art editor for Boys' Life, a post he held for several years. As part of fulfilling that position, he painted several covers between 1913 and 1915. His first published magazine cover, Scout at Ship's Wheel, appeared on Boys' Life September 1913 edition.
During the First World War, he tried to enlist into the U.S. Navy but was refused entry because, at 6 feet (1.83 m) tall and 140 pounds (64 kg), he was eight pounds underweight. To compensate, he spent one night gorging himself on bananas, liquids and donuts, and weighed enough to enlist the next day. However, he was given the role of a military artist and did not see any action during his tour of duty.
Rockwell moved to New Rochelle, New York at age 21 and shared a studio with the cartoonist Clyde Forsythe, who worked for The Saturday Evening Post. With Forsythe's help, he submitted his first successful cover painting to the Post in 1916, Boy with Baby Carriage (published on May 20). He followed that success with Circus Barker and Strongman (published on June 3), Gramps at the Plate (August 5), Redhead Loves Hatty Perkins (September 16), People in a Theatre Balcony (October 14) and Man Playing Santa (December 9). Rockwell was published eight times total on the Post cover within the first twelve months. Norman Rockwell published a total of 321 original covers for The Saturday Evening Post over 47 years.
Rockwell's success on the cover of the Post led to covers for other magazines of the day, most notably The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman, Leslie's Weekly, Judge, Peoples Popular Monthly and Life Magazine.
Rockwell married his third wife, retired schoolteacher Molly Punderson, in 1961. His last painting for the Post was published in 1963, marking the end of a publishing relationship that had included 321 cover paintings. He spent the next 10 years painting for Look Magazine, where his work depicted his interests in civil rights, poverty and space exploration.
During his long career, he was commissioned to paint the portraits for Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon, as well as those of foreign figures, including Gamal Abdel Nasser and Jawaharlal Nehru. One of his last works was a portrait of legendary singer Judy Garland in 1969.
A custodianship of 574 of his original paintings and drawings was established with Rockwell's help near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the museum is still open today year round Rockwell received in 1977 the Presidential Medal of Freedom for "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country," the United States of America's highest civilian honor. Norman Rockwell died November 8, 1978 of emphysema at age 84 in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.
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