All the time I was growing up, whenever anyone would talk about ‘famous illustrators’, there really was only one name that would pop up. Norman Rockwell was the one illustrator that most people could name, and I can’t remember a time when I didn’t know of his work. I’d seen his artwork on back issues of the Saturday Evening Post, framed prints, reprinted on phone book covers, you really had to have lived a hermetic lifestyle to have avoided seeing Norman Rockwell’s art at some point. I was introduced to his ‘collected work’ by an artistic friend of mine when I was still in grade school, and I marveled at the attention to detail, but by the time I got to college, his work had generally fallen out of favor, and thought of as ‘old fashioned’ and ‘cliche-ridden’ and portraying a bygone America that may well have never actually existed.
I have, however, always remained a huge fan of his work, and there are several of his pieces which I still find absolutely stunning in their beauty and composition. I had the good fortune of attending a showing of his original art in Nashville a few years back (would have been around 2015 or so), and once again found myself just awed by his masterful brushwork and attention to detail. The piece below of the boys at the ‘old swimming hole’ was one of the originals I got to see, and I swear I must’ve stood staring at the wet hair on the central boy for a good 15 minutes. Long before I even knew what an ‘illustrator’ was, or before I would eventually become one of its ranks, Norman Rockwell was, and will always be the gold standard.