This Day in History… November 8, 1978

U.S. #2839 – Rockwell’s famous Triple Self-Portrait, created in 1960.

Death of Acclaimed Illustrator Norman Rockwell

On November 8, 1978, the world lost one of its most prolific artists – Norman Rockwell.

Norman Rockwell was born in New York, New York in 1894. His illustrations were first published in Founders of Our Country in 1912. That same year, he was hired as a staff artist for Boys’ Life magazine, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. In this role, he received $50 a month to produce a cover and a set of story illustrations. The following year at just 19 years old, Rockwell was promoted to art editor for the magazine. In addition to creating his own art for the publication, he also supervised the work assigned to other artists.

U.S. #2840 – Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were perhaps his most well-known paintings.

Soon, other publishers began to hire him to illustrate children’s books and magazines. He continued to work for Boys’ Life until 1916, when he received a coveted position with The Saturday Evening Post. During his tenure at the Post, Rockwell also did illustrations for the American Red Cross’ monthly magazine. He continued to include images of Boy Scouts in his work for both of these publications.

U.S. #3502s pictures Rockwell’s Doctor and Doll which appeared on the Saturday Evening Post in 1929.

Rockwell’s artistic style continued to mature during the 1930s, which led to him being honored by the Art Director’s Club for the Best Advertising Poster of 1940. Then, as the world was engulfed in war, he turned his attention to new topics. He created G.I. Willie Gillis, a fictional soldier, and traced his journey through the war. Rockwell also put his own spin on Rosie the Riveter (view the image here).

U.S. #1470 – In the 1930s, Rockwell was commissioned to paint scenes from the Mark Twain novels Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn.

Perhaps Rockwell’s most famous illustrations were the Four Freedoms, based on President Roosevelt’s 1941 address to Congress. Rockwell’s moving paintings were sent out on a 16-city tour to raise money for war bonds. Over one million people saw them and donated more than $130 million. The images were then published in The Saturday Evening Post, furthering their popularity.

U.S. # 1145 – Rockwell worked with the scouts longer than any other organization. (Click the image to learn a neat story behind this drawing.)

Rockwell continued with The Post until 1963, but kept working for other magazines such as McCall’s and Look. He also continued working with the Boy Scouts, creating his last commission for the organization at the age of 82 – a calendar illustration titled, The Spirit of ‘76. Over the course of his career, he produced 471 images for the Scouts that were used in periodicals, guidebooks, calendars, and promotional materials. Working with the Scouts for 64 years, it was the longest professional association of his career.

In all, Rockwell created over 4,000 works, including 321 Saturday Evening Post covers. He also illustrated covers for many other magazines including Family Circle, Life, McCall’s, Popular Science, and TV Guide.

U.S. #1238 pictures Rockwell drawing of an 1860s letter carrier.

Although good training, technique and meticulous research all played a part, much of his popularity is due to the sensitivity and deep affection he brought to his subjects. Author Robin Langley Sommer stated, “His feeling for the beauty and importance of everyday life was of a rare order, and his ability to make others feel it as well was surely not far removed from genius. This gift for perceiving what E.B. White called the glory of everything is Norman Rockwell’s most enduring legacy.”

Click the images to add this history to your collection.

Discover more Norman Rockwell stamps here.

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