Norman Rockwell’s Urban Connection


Although his home was rural Vermont, Norman Rockwell knew about the integrated urban neighborhoods that flourished in America in 1940. Long before the highways, Lewtown and "White Flight", working districts in Troy, New York and Los Angeles, California attracted the famous illustrator. He draws sketches and takes pictures of their homes and people, and these sketches provide the backdrop for two of Rockwell's most memorable Saturday nights, Home arriving GI (1945) and Road block (1949). And true to their urban theme, both illustrations include African-Americans.

Troy, known as The Collar City, is home to Arrow Shirts whose "Arrow Collar Man" is famous for commercials created by Rockwell's mentor and friend, J.C. Leyendecker. Troy is a thriving factory town that produces four million collars per week in the 1920s. Another source of industrial fame for the city was his iron, fictions, which in the mid-1800s were second to those of Pennsylvania.

From his home in Vermont, Norman Rockwell often traveled through Troy on his way to Albany, New York, where he took the train to New York. When the artist decided to create a post of a post, noting Veteran doctors from the Second World War who were returning to their native cities, he decided to do this working class Troy, New York.

Home arriving GI appeared on the cover of Saturday's post on May 25, 1945. Among the people who gladly (or shyly, in the case of his young beloved) welcomed the home, the young soldier was not alone on Norman Rockwell (standing at the entrance to the dwelling) but also two young boys who are recklessly hanging on a tree that they have climbed, and grumbling welcome. One of the two boys is black.

In 1945 the children simply went out to play. There are no "helicopter parents", no game dates. The black and white children were glad and fought together along the streets of America. Think about our band. Elsie Wagner Fenic, in the moving memoirs A white girl in Harlem, provides a wonderful view of this time. A second-generation Polish-American, Fanic can still jump an average Dutchman twice, thanks to his first nineteen years, enjoying the street games in New York in 1940 with black and Latino friends.

Norman Rockwell puts black and white friends together Home arriving GInot to make a declaration of civil rights, but because in the streets of Troy, New York in 1945, they really were there.

Another urban environment of Norman Rockwell was Los Angeles, California.

In the winter of 1948-49, while resting with her family in Los Angeles, Rockwell visited Mrs. Merrill, a widow and owner of a women's house. She wanted her to take her house.

Located in the McArthur Park District of Los Angeles, 719 South Rampart is a three-story residential building surrounded by similar structures and the Pacific Telephone and Telegraph Building building, a place where Ms Merrill is very busy. Rockwell has asked Mrs. Merril's permission to take a photo session in front of her building. Taking a picture of the street as well as some of its inhabitants as models, he will use these pictures to create one of his famous covers on Saturday night. But Mrs Merrill said no. Obviously even in 1949, not everyone loved Norman Rockwell.

The middle-class cheerleader felt that in his paintings the famous artist did not adequately "strengthen" his female objects. Rockwell, however, continued with his request, and Merrill finally retired: for a payment of $ 50.00.

The band came to South Ramp, while one of Mrs. Merrill's rooms, Antonia Piacetski, was doing her laundry. In a letter to Norman Rockwell's museum, she wrote: "Mr. Rockwell asked me about some luxury underwear for the clothes line, I gave him nylon socks, black lace pants and a bra that he hung …"

A truck with California registration numbers and two drivers arrived. Many photos were taken. The result was Road block, a heroic illustration that appeared as a cover of The Saturday Evening Post on July 9, 1949.

Norman Rockwell puts himself in the picture: he is a violin teacher who looks out the window of Ms. Piasetski's bedroom. Ms. Piasetzky must also be Rockwell's model: she is the young woman who sways through the window beneath Rockwell. The red-haired lady standing at the basement's door? That's Rockwell's model, who turned to Mr. Merrill. Patterns for other figures in the picture are also identified: Joseph Magnani, director of the Los Angeles Art Museum and Rockwell's friend, is the artist hanging from the window in a building across the street, accompanied by a barely sunny young lady. Peter Rockwell, the youngest son of the artist, is a violin boy just below them. But Mrs. Piasetski does not remember that at the time there were all these children (the shooting site).

"All these kids" is likely a kind of Ms. Piasetzky's kind code for the two little black kids placed at the bottom of the stage. They stand solemnly with their backs to the viewer, studying the stalemate created when the big red truck meets a little white dog.

Obviously, Norman Rockwell has not actually encountered any black kids on South Ramapart Street. But considering his understanding of such neighborhoods as those in Troy, New York, he knew they were there somewhere. So the fearless artist went out and found them.


They touch elegance, innocence and simplicity. Two black kids, a little girl and a bigger boy in the back profile. The black-and-white photo in the archives of the Norman Rockwell Museum shows that the boy's shirt is pressed and the little girl's braids are flawlessly arranged. Both stand with their hands behind their back and stare at an invisible horizon.

The names of these two small models are unknown. There is nothing written on the back of the picture. Rockwell's periodically-kept receipts do not reveal who paid for the shot for that shot. The locality of the photo, though it looks like it's made in Los Angeles, is also not known for sure.

But this is known: in 1949 Norman Rockwell deliberately came out and found two black children to model him so he could put his figures on the illustration. Rockwell knew they had to be in the picture.

The 719 South Rampart Boulevard House is missing. There is a parking lot where the building once stood. In the 1950s, the integrated neighborhoods began to disappear from America. Accordingly, colorful people have also disappeared from the paintings of Norman Rockwell of the 1950s.