An American Patriot: Norman Rockwell

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To celebrate election day, today's "Feel Art Again" features Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) at the request of readers Nerak and gmsc. Rockwell, known for his patriotic depictions of American life, painted portraits of four presidents—Kennedy, Eisenhower, Nixon, and Johnson—as well as several election-related scenes, two of which are shown above.

1. Norman Rockwell was sometimes referred to as "Mr. Scouting" for his long association with the Boy Scouts of America. He became the art director for Boys' Life, the BSA official magazine, at age 19 and, though he only kept that job for three years, he illustrated the official Boy Scouts calendar for 50 years. In 1939, the BSA awarded Rockwell the Silver Buffalo Award, their highest adult award.

2. According to TIME magazine, "Rockwell shared with Walt Disney the extraordinary distinction of being one of the two artists familiar to nearly everyone in the U.S., rich or poor, black or white, museum goer or not, illiterate or Ph.D." Rockwell's art was so popular with the American people that newsstand sales of The Saturday Evening Post would increase by 50,000 to 75,000 copies every time his art appeared on the cover.

3. Rockwell was inspired to create his famous Four Freedoms paintings after hearing President Franklin Roosevelt's January 6, 1941, state of the union address. Roosevelt identified four essential human rights that deserved universal protection—freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. By the end of World War II, 4 million copies of the posters had been printed, and the touring exhibition had raised $139.9 million for the war effort through war bonds sales.

4. Several U.S. postage stamps were designed by Rockwell, including a Boy Scouts of America 50th anniversary stamp (1960) and a stamp marking the 100th anniversary of free city mail delivery. Rockwell's stamp featuring Boy Scout Thorton Percival is one of the most popular U.S. stamps of all time with a printing of more than 139 million. Rockwell's "Triple Self-Portrait" was featured on a 1994 stamp issued in his honor. Even Liberia had a Rockwell-designed stamp, which featured one of Rockwell's Boy Scout calendar paintings.

5. In 1957, Norman Rockwell was declared a Great Living American by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who told Rockwell, "Through the magic of your talent, the folks next door "“ their gentle sorrows, their modest joys "“ have enriched our own lives and given us insight into our countrymen."

For one more fun fact about Norman Rockwell, head to our 2007 post on November artists.

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UPDATE: This post originally contained two other election-related covers from The Saturday Evening Post. However, I have discovered that they were not Norman Rockwell covers, so I have removed them to avoid confusion.

Slightly larger versions of the election paintings featured above are available: "A Time for Greatness" (left) and election booth, "Norman Rockwell Paints America at the Polls" (right) Larger versions of the presidents' portraits (above and below) are also available: Kennedy, Reagan, and Nixon.

Fans should check out the official Norman Rockwell site; the Norman Rockwell Museum; the Rockwell gallery on ARC; the Four Freedoms posters; the Rockwell mosaic at the UN; this promo video for a Rockwell exhibit; and this How Stuff Works video on Rockwell.

"Feel Art Again" appears every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. You can e-mail us at feelartagain@gmail.com with artist suggestions or details of current exhibitions.

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