The work of Norman Rockwell may be the most recognized of any American artist. His pictures of wholesome, everyday people and events portray an innocence and simplicity which is comforting and appealing.
Norman Rockwell was born into a wealthy, religious family in New York City in 1894. As a child, Rockwell was not talented in sports, but used drawing to entertain. In 1903, his family moved to Mamaroneck. Here, the artist developed a love of the country which would show in his work. By 1906, Rockwell had decided to become an artist. Two years later, he received his first formal artistic training at the Chase School of Fine and Applied Art. He then began to study at the National Academy School on a full-time basis. At this school, he trained in the academic French tradition; it was a stiff and formal training. In 1910, Rockwell studied at the Art Students League which was, in opposition to the National Academy, the most liberal and exciting art school of its time. In 1912, Rockwell's family moved back to New York City. At this time, the teenage Rockwell began working as a professional illustrator.
Rockwell's success came early. At nineteen, he became the art director of Boys' Life. This began his career of illustrating young people's publications. At the age of twenty-two, he painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post. Throughout his career, he would illustrate over three hundred covers for this magazine. He would also contribute to magazines including Life and Literary Digest and design posters for movies and paint designs for a variety of organizations including Coca-Cola and Maxwell House. Rockwell's work focused on American Life. He created realistic portraits of everyday, innocent experiences. Over the course of his career, he would also paint more political works as well as portraits of American Presidents and other world leaders.
The 1930s and 1940s were the most fruitful decades of Rockwell's career. In 1939, married to his second wife, Mary Barstow, Rockwell moved his family (the couple had three sons) to Vermont, where he began to paint the images of small town life for which he is most famous. In 1943, in response to a speech by President Roosevelt, Rockwell created Four Freedoms which exemplified popular American sentiment concerning the war effort. This work solidified Rockwell's popularity in America.
In 1953, Rockwell moved to Massachusetts where he continued to work for a variety of magazines and organizations. In 1963, he left The Saturday Evening Post in order to enter into a ten year contract with Look magazine. Throughout the 1960s, the themes of poverty, civil rights and space exploration became the focal points of his work.
Rockwell received many accolades and much recognition throughout his career. In 1969, he received the Artist of the Year Award from the Artists' Guild of New York. He also received the Freedom Award from President Ford. The Norman Rockwell Museum in Philadelphia was established in 1976, two years before the artist's death.