If you were to ask ten people to name the most famous American artist, you might hear the name Georgia O'Keefe. You might hear Grant Wood. You might even hear the name Norman Rockwell. There might also be some argument as to whether Norman Rockwell was an artist or an illustrator.
An illustrator is generally thought to be a person who draws pictures for books. An artist draws or paints works that are exhibited on their own. Some people consider Norman Rockwell to be an artist whose paintings are works of art to be viewed as individual pieces. Others believe that Rockwell was no more than an illustrator who painted pictures for the covers of magazines. Rockwell himself didn't care which category you put him in. He painted his pictures for everyone to enjoy.
Rockwell was born in New York City on February 3, 1894. He changed from schooling in a public high school at age 16 to a special school called the Chase Art School. From there he graduated to the National Academy of Design and then to the Art Students League. He was earning money for his artwork before he ever left high school. He was paid to design a set of four Christmas cards at the age of sixteen. Before he reached the age of twenty, he was hired as the art editor of Boys' Life magazine. This magazine was the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. At age eighteen, he did the illustrations for a book by C.H. Claudy called Tell Me Why Stories: Stories about Mother Nature.
When the United States became involved in World War I, Rockwell tried to enlist in the army. He was six feet tall, but he only weighed 140 pounds. That didn't meet the weight requirement for recruits. He went on an overnight eating binge that raised his weight just enough to allow him to enlist. He didn't see any action during the war. Instead, he was assigned as a military artist.
Rockwell's family moved to New Rochelle, New York. He was just twenty-one years old, but he joined forces with a cartoonist named Clyde Forsythe and set up a studio. It was Forsythe who helped Rockwell get his first cover on the Saturday Evening Post magazine. The painting was called Boy with Baby Carriage. This was the beginning of a forty-seven year collaboration between Rockwell and the Post.