Sunday, July 20, 2008

Norman Rockwell

Norman Perceval Rockwell was arguably America's greatest commercial illustrator. From his first job in 1913 as art editor of Boy's Life Rockwell's work graced the covers of over 600 magazines, 321 of which were part of the most fabled association of an illustrator and a magazine, The Saturday Evening Post (which, by the way had nothing to do with Benjamin Franklin as long alleged by the publishers). In May 1916, the 22 year old Rockwell boldly strode into the office of George Horace Lorimer, the Post's art editor with a large case full of paintings. At the time, the cover of the Post was the pinnacle of American illustration. The rest is history.

The subject of this cover was Billy Paine (drawn three times for you more observant visitors), one of Rockwell's favorite models until his umtimely death only a few years later. The original oil of this and most of Rockwell's great original illustrations can be seen at The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. well worth a visit if you are in the Berkshires and a place where I've enjoyed many wonderful days.
Collecting Rockwell magazine covers and appearances has been a popular hobby since the 1970's. There are many websites devoted to his work.
In the 1980's I traded my Rockwell collection to the museum for an original drawing (which I gave back to them a few years later for a pittance of a tax deduction!) and it still forms the foundation of the reference collection there. The catalog raisonee compiled by museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt is highly recommended reading and, far and away, the best refernce work on Rockwell. I still enjoy finding and keeping the rarest of the covers in my collection. Here are a few of the most coveted.
This "rara avis " was the corporate magazine of Firestone Rubber.

This one is actually quite amazing and testimony to the rarity of certain magazines. Popular Magazine was a widely circulated pulp but over the years I've only seen one copy of this wartime issue (found at a pulp convention for one dollar) and, believe you me, I've seen a lot of magazines in my time!
This one is also extremely rare. It was a sunday newspaper supplement and only rumored to exist until it unexpectedly showed up a few years ago at a paper show. Ain't collecting great?

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