It is said that America and Rockwell are synonymous. His paintings reflecting our neighborhoods, and his own gift for observing and communicating the essential, ordinary moments of American life. From the doughboys of World War I, to man's first steps on the moon, Rockwell's images quietly tell the story of a people with traditional values rooted in a deep optimism.
Exhibitions of Rockwell's paintings have always attracted huge crowds in major cities throughout the United States. The publics appreciation of the artist's genius, and an enjoyment of nostalgia, contributes to his popularity. "The kid with the camera eye" is what his schoolmates called him. From the beginning, he could put brush to canvas and detail precisely what he saw. For more than half a century he painted realism, with a sentimental touch.
Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell's greatest desire from an early age was to be able to illustrate. In 1909, at the age of fifteen, he left high school to begin art studies at the National Academy of Design.
Rockwell produced work for magazines: Life, Literary Digest, Country Gentleman. At the age of twenty-two, Rockwell's first Saturday Evening Post cover appeared. Over the next forty-seven years, Rockwell produced 321 covers for Post, and more then 4,000 recorded works of art.
Rockwell reached the peak of his popularity during the 1930's - 1950's. During which time, he and wife Mary and three sons Jarvis, Thomas and Peter, moved to Arlington, Vermont in 1939. There, Rockwell's work began to reflect small town American life.
It was in 1943, Rockwell created his famous series of four paintings based on Franklin Roosevelt's concept of the Four Freedoms. The paintings were reproduced in the Saturday Evening Post entitled "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom of Want," "Freedom to Worship" and "Freedom from Fear." On July 1st 1994, the U.S. Postal Service marked the Artist's 100th birthday with the "Four Freedoms" & "Triple Portrait" series of stamps.
Rockwell moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953. "I couldn't ask for better models than my neighbors." Rockwell said. "I guess if (they) weren't so pleasant and obliging I'd have to give up work. I couldn't do it without them." In 1976, Rockwell placed his Stockbridge Studio in trust. The next year, he was presented with his highest honor, The Presidential Medal of Freedom, for his "vivid and affectionate portraits of our country."
Today, Norman Rockwell lives through his illustrations, beautifully housed in a 36-acre museum complex which opened to the public June 12, 1993, in Stockbridge, MA. The one-story, white clapboard gallery building overlooks the scenic Berkshire Hills with a spectacular view of the Housatonic River Valley. This facility houses the largest collection of original Rockwell art in the United States. In addition, the site encompasses Norman Rockwell's final studio, just as he left if (filled with working materials, artbooks, costumes and props;) a 19th Century Gothic Revival mansion and Victorian carriage barn built in 1859.
There are 500 Rockwell pictures, 172 finished works, the largest collection of his originals in the world. Magnificent paintings like Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas, Girl at the Mirror, Triple Self-Portrait, Four Freedoms, Doctor and Doll, Young Lincoln, Sports Topics. The large well lit rooms showcase Rockwell's sketches, photographs, and charcoal sketches.
Rockwell's artist son, Tom, said approvingly when the Museum Complex design was unveiled, "I think my father would have like it, but I don't think we would have gotten very far before he would have turned to me and whispered...."Do you think enough people will come? Isn't this awfully expensive?"
During his career, Rockwell chronicled the introduction of the telephone, radio, electrical lighting, television, air travel and moon landings into American life.