Thursday, October 25, 2012


No Swimming
The Saturday Evening Post, June 4, 1921 (cover)
Oil on canvas
The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge (Massachusetts)

These boys sure are hightailing it out of there! Even the dog is hauling tail. Rockwell expert Robert Berridge wrote about this cover in an edition of The Saturday Evening Post magazine. “Franklin Lischke—the freckle-faced lad in the middle,” writes Berridge, was so taken with Rockwell’s work, he ended up studying art himself, becoming a successful commercial artist.
The question remained for decades: what were the boys running from? “Could it have been the pond owner,” Berridge asked, “an irritated bull, or a group of passing girls?. 
(Diana Denny at
Norman Rockwell might have been thinking of his boyhood summer vacations in upstate New York as he captured a simple joy of country life in No Swimming. Rockwell was branded as a kid illustrator during the early years of his career, which were dominated by his association with Boys’ Life magazine and then another children’s magazine, St. Nicholas.
Rockwell perfected documenting life from the point of view of boys and girls in genre paintings such as this one, capturing slices-of-life just as a camera might have. But such images, just a click away for photographers, were a challenge for artists.
Before Rockwell began using photography to aid his painting process, his models had to hold their poses for lengthy stretches, sometimes with limbs propped up by stacks of books or held with ropes and pulleys. Rockwell kept a pile of nickels on a table next to his easel. “Every twenty-five minutes,” he recorded, “I’d transfer five of the nickels to the other side of the table, saying, ‘Now that’s your pile.’ ” - Credit Line Norman Rockwell Art Collection Trust.
The calendar proved to be Rockwells best friend when ideas were scant, and he often resorted to seasonal settings for his carefree grandpas, freckle-faced boys, and spotted-mutt dogs. Such traditions as spring fishing, summer visits to the old swimming hole, fall leaf raking, and winter ice-skating proved apt subjects for the Saturday Evening Post. All that he needed to flesh out one of those old "sugar sticks" was a fresh story line. Of course that is always the rub for creators--finding a new twist to an old theme. Still Rockwell produced more consistently than any other Post contributor, forever finding visual bon mots for his illustrations.

No comments: