How Norman Rockwell changed Christmas


Special to The PREVIEW

Certain holiday images have been ingrained in the minds of the public. Coca-Cola’s smiling bearded Santa Claus, in his now universally recognized red coat, helped create a model from which all other Santas evolved. And an early 20th century artist and illustrator helped to establish the feelings of the Christmas season for millions with portraits featured on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post.

Norman Rockwell was born in New York City in 1894 and dreamt of becoming an artist when he was young. Rockwell received his first commission at age 17 and illustrated for Boy’s Life, the monthly magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1916, Rockwell was hired by The Saturday Evening Post. When Rockwell began working for the Post, his humorous and dead-pan depictions of American life tugged at the heartstrings of the public — even if they weren’t so adored by art critics. 

Rockwell spent 47 years working for this iconic magazine. Rockwell produced paintings for the Post and other publications that depicted key images in American history, including Charles Lindbergh’s crossing of the Atlantic, the moon landing and World War II. However, some of Rockwell’s most beloved work pertains to his holiday scenes. 

Rockwell used real people as his models, and every detail in his reproduction paintings of photographs was fastidiously planned, say biographers. Over time, Rockwell’s paintings helped define an idealized vision of American life and Christmas celebrations. Even now people seek to emulate the merriment and magic exemplified in Rockwell’s imagery — from tired toy store clerks to a boy discovering Santa kissing his mom to the great holiday dinner. Rockwell produced 29 Christmas covers as well as greeting cards and other holiday scenes.

The holiday season would not be the same without the work of artist Norman Rockwell. His influential images helped reflect a glorified version of American life and have helped to make the holiday season even more special for millions of people.