Famous Paintings by Norman Rockwell

Home for Christmas

Alternate Title:  Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas

Year: 1967

Norman Rockwell moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953 and he spent the last 25 year of his life there. He painted this picture of his home-town to epitomize the essence of Christmas in small towns across the country. Apart from using photographs of the buildings on Main Street, Rockwell used a variety of references to create this snowy winter scene. In addition to the public library, the insurance office, the barbershop, the Victorian hotel, etc., on the far right of the painting is the artist’s South Street home and studio. Rockwell’s affectionate portrait of his home-town has come to symbolize the holiday season. During the first weekend in December, Stockbridge recreates this iconic painting of its Main Street.

Girl at Mirror

Year: 1954

Girl at Mirror follows a long tradition in which famous artists including Edouard Manet and Pablo Picasso portrayed a female contemplating her reflection. In Rockwell’s painting a young girl is studying her own face in the reflection. On the floor by her bare feet are a vintage doll, an open tube of lipstick, a comb and a brush. She is sitting on a red stool and she has propped her mirror up with a chair. The picture on her lap is of Jane Russell, one of Hollywood’s leading sex symbols in the 1940s and 1950s. The girl in the picture is Mary Whalen Leonard, Rockwell’s favorite female model. The painting is thought to represent her anxiousness on being on the verge of womanhood and her fear that she is not yet ready. However, there are several other interpretations with some finding more sexual and deeper themes in the artwork. Girl at Mirror is one of the most analyzed and controversial works of Norman Rockwell.

Saying Grace

Year: 1951

This painting was created for the cover of The Saturday Evening Post’s 1951 Thanksgiving issue. It portrays a woman and a young boy saying grace in a crowded restaurant while the people around them glance in their direction. Rockwell was inspired to create this artwork by a reader of the magazine who saw a Mennonite family praying in a restaurant. In 1955, the readers of The Saturday Evening Post voted Saying Grace as their favorite ever cover.

The Runaway

Year: 1958

The Runaway depicts a child on a stool with a state-police officer on his left and the counterman to his front. That the child is a wannabe vagabond can be inferred from the stick and handkerchief beneath the stool. Though the scene of a runaway child would usually evoke anxiety, Rockwell’s painting instead radiates comfort and safety due to the protective environment around the child. 30 years old Massachusetts State Trooper Richard J. Clemens posed as the police officer and 8 years old Ed Locke is the runaway child. The painting was staged in a Howard Johnson’s restaurant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts but Rockwell removed all traces of the chain restaurant “to suggest the kid had gotten a little further out of town”. The Runaway paints an idealized version of small-town America where the community is glad to watch over a child in trouble.

Golden Rule

Year: 1961

In 1952, inspired by the United Nation’s humanitarian mission, Norman Rockwell conceived an illustration in which he would paint sixty-five people representing the world’s nations. However, the following year, he abandoned the illustration, perhaps because it was too ambitious. Rockwell revisited the idea a decade later and this time decided to just focus on the idea of common humanity. This led to one of his most acclaimed works, Golden Rule. The painting features a gathering of men, women and children of different races, religions and ethnicity; and in front of them is written the simple but universal phrase: “Do Unto Others as You Would Have Them Do Unto You.” In 1985, a large mosaic of Rockwell’s Golden Rule was presented to the UN as a gift on behalf of US by the then First Lady Nancy Reagan. Since then, it has remained on display in UN’s New York City Headquarters.

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