Norman Rockwell: Childhood

Figure 1.--The Rockwells when Norman was a boy would escape the heat of New York every year and live on a farm. Here Norman and I think his brother have been out hunting toads and are showing off their catch. The boys look to be about 9-10 years old. One would think they would be barefoot and not wearing long stockings, but they were city boys. The photograph was probably taken about 1903.

Norman was born in New York City (1894). His parents were Jarvis Waring Rockwell and Anne Mary "Nancy" (born Hill) Rockwell. His earliest American ancestor was John Rockwell (15881662), from Somerset, England, who immigrated to America probably in 1635 aboard the ship Hopewell. He was one of the earlest settlers of Windsor, Connecticut. He had one brother, Jarvis Waring Rockwell, Jr. a year and half older. Norman had a comfortable childhood. His father was the manager of the New York office of a Philadelphia textile firm, George Wood, Sons & Company. The elder Rockwell spent his entire working career with the company, beginning as an office boy. Both parents were very religious. Norman and his brother sang in the church choir. Norman was a slight, rather skinny boy. He was not good at sports. He lived in a rather rough neighbourhood on the Upper West Side and came to fear the tougher boys. His mother bragged about her English heritage and artistic amvestors. She tended to coddel Norman. He was, however, not close to his mother who often complained of largely imaginary illnesses. He also later complained of her periodic frenzies of religious fervor. Much of these childhood experiemces can be seen in his work. We also see the styles children wore in the 1900s and 10s dominating many of his earkly drawings. Norman from a very early Age knew that he wanted to be an artist. Here his father was undoubtesky an influence. He was an amateur artist and would spend time with Norman copying illustrations out of magazines. His father also read to the family. Charles Dickens' work was aarticular favorite. While his father read, Norman would draw the characters in the novels. One art critic sopeculates, "His strong sense of narrative and his eye for the telling detail were byproducts of those long, nurturing evenings in his father's company." The family would spend summers at farms in the country to get away from the heat of the city and enjoy the fresh air and greenery. He seems to have enjoyed these excursions. "I have no bad memories of my summers in the country." He thinks that these summers in the country 'had a lot to do with what I painted later on'. [Rockwell] The family could afford books and magazines. Norman was thus exposed to the Golden den Age of American illustration. He was particularly taken with the work of Charles Dana Gibson, Harrison Fisher, Howard Pyle, and Newell Convers Wyeth. The family as the senior Rockwell prospered moved out of New York City to leafy Mamaroneck (1907). This was a small suburban settlement on Long Island Sound.


Rockwell, Norman. Autobiography.


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Created: 5:40 AM 1/7/2013
Last updated: 5:40 AM 1/7/2013