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Norman Rockwell Museum of Vermont  Your #1 Source for Norman Rockwell Art, Prints, Norman Rockwell Figurines,  Plates, Boy Scout Prints, Saturday Evening Post Covers, and More! Norman Rockwell of Vermont - Saturday Evening Post Covers
 
 
 
 

History of Norman Rockwell's  Work With the Boy Scouts of America

One day in the fall of 1912, a talented 18-year-old art student named Norman Rockwell walked into the offices of Boy's Life looking for work. When he left, he had his first commission to do a magazine illustration and had begun a relationship with the Boy Scouts of America that would last for more than 60 years. Rockwell became the visual spokesman for Scouting, bringing its spirit and ideals to life through hundreds of now-classic paintings.

When the gangly Rockwell tried to join the Navy to fight in World War I, in 1917, he was at first rejected for being 17 pounds underweight. He later made it in with the help of a Navy doctor who waived a rule for him, but then found himself doing "morale" work at a base in Charleston, S.C., preparing art for the camp newspaper and painting and sketching officers and sailors. He was given a special early discharge from the navy after painting a portrait of his commanding officer. Throughout his life, he remained deeply patriotic, and he frequently used heroic symbols, especially the American flag, to communicate patriotic values to Boy Scouts.

Every year but two from 1925 through 1976, Norman Rockwell did a painting for the annual Boy Scout calendar published by Brown & Bigelow. Each painting presented an image of idealized Scouts in worthy action, and always with meticulously accurate uniforms and equipment. By 1929, the Boy Scout calendar was the most popular in America, and it remained so for many years.

Asked if he might ever run out of subjects for his paintings, Rockwell once said, "The Boy Scouts are simply going to have to devise some new deeds or Brown & Bigelow will be in a stew." Yet the artist always found fresh ways to evoke the virtues of Scouting. In 1939, when he had been painting Scouts for more than 25 years, Rockwell was honored with the highest award given by the Boy Scouts of America, the Silver Buffalo, presented before an audience of 3,000 people at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York.

In the sixties, Rockwell's focus broadened to include many more minority and foreign Scouts. His calendar paintings for the world jamboree years of 1963 and 1967 both depicted Scouts of various nations joyously united.

"The common places of America are to me the richest subjects in art," he once said. "Boys batting flies on vacant lots; girls playing jacks on front steps; old men plodding home at twilight; all these arouse feelings in me."

Rockwell's illustrations almost defined America in the middle part of the 20th century; they certainly helped define Scouting. His career spanned nearly the whole history of the Boy Scouts to date, encompassing an age during which both America and the Boy Scouts grew immensely, a period, as Rockwell wrote, "when America believed in itself. I was happy to be painting it." The artist died in 1978 at the age of 84.
 


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