Lonely Planet Writer

Norman Rockwell Museum celebrates centenary of artist's first magazine cover

The Norman Rockwell Museum, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the artist’s first illustrated cover published in the Saturday Evening Post.

Norman Rockwell in his Main Street, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, studio, 1955.
Norman Rockwell in his Main Street, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, studio, 1955. Image by Bill Scovill

In the early part of the 20th century, Americans sought their entertainment in part from the work of illustrators. The Post at the time was the most influential news magazine in the United States and with the popularity of Boy with Baby Carriage, Rockwell, at the age of 22, became an overnight celebrity.

Freedom from Want, 1943. Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections.
Freedom from Want, 1943. Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. Image by: Curtis Publishing

Lining the outdoor pathway between the museum and Rockwell’s studio, moved lock, stock and barrel from elsewhere in Stockbridge, are a number of sculptures created by local artists in homage of that cover’s joyful and mischievous tableau: a boy in his Sunday best taking his baby brother out for a stroll passes two laughing friends on their way to play baseball.

Boy with Baby Carriage, 1916. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1916.
Boy with Baby Carriage, 1916. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, May 20, 1916. Image by Norman Rockwell Museum Collections

All 323 of Rockwell’s Post illustrated covers are displayed in the museum, an impressive demonstration of the artists’ productivity. Taken together, they are a fascinating visual timeline of nearly fifty years of turbulent American history; one of the most striking examples of Rockwell’s tussling with events is 1963’s The Problem We All Live With. The original painting, which addresses the Civil Rights movement and school desegregation, is displayed in the museum.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), The Problem We All Live With, 1963.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), The Problem We All Live With, 1963. Image by Norman Rockwell Family Agency.

As Jeremy Clowe, the museums’ manager of media relations noted, the 100th anniversary celebration is a chance to appreciate the extent to which Rockwell’s legacy as a storyteller remains influential. “Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, collectors of Rockwell’s work, are big admires of both his aesthetics and themes.” But it’s not only filmmakers who are promoting Rockwell. Recently, a group of students from a high school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan campaigned to rename W103rd St in his honour. After visiting the museum they learned that Rockwell was born just around the corner.