Sunday, 6 April 2014

AMERICANA / Norman Rockwell . The Tattoo Artist, 1944. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944

Norman Rockwell (American, 1894 to 1978). The Tattoo Artist, 1944. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944. Oil on canvas. 43 x 33 in. Collection of the Brooklyn Museum Gift of the artist, Copyright 4SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis.

Staged photo of Clarence Decker (left) used by Norman Rockwell for The Tattooist. which was used as The Saturday Evening Post cover on the March 4, 1944 issue.
 Beloved American artist Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) is most known for his nostalgic, touching paintings that appealingly depicted simple scenes from everyday life. First hired to illustrate a series of children’s books when he was 16, Rockwell was then hired as the art director of “Boys’ Life,” the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. The “Saturday Evening Post,” the era’s most prestigious magazine, bought their first cover from him six years later. For almost five decades, he created 321 “Post” covers, which became his trademark. Later illustrating for “Look” magazine, he probed more serious cultural concerns.

The Tattoo Artist
Rockwell located the equipment and props for this Post cover in a tattoo shop on the Bowery in New York City. In a departure for him, the figures seem to float above the tattoo artist’s sample sheet rather than occupy realistic three-dimensional space.
Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944.
 Love & Tattoos: The Tattoo Archive on Rockwell's "The Tattoo Artist"
Wed, March 26, 2014
By C. W. Eldridge, tattoo historian of Tattoo Archive, Winston-Salem, NC |@LearnReynolda

Norman Rockwell’s paintings were said to have a very personal feel to them. This is probably because they represented a thick slice of Americana. Rockwell was often accused of looking at America through rose-colored glasses, but the public loved it! When Norman Rockwell’s art appeared on the covers of The Saturday Evening Post, newsstand sales soared.

We believe what made his paintings feel so personal was that Rockwell used his friends and neighbors as models. Norman Rockwell worked from photographs and went to great lengths to pose these photographs with his local community. In his studios in New Rochelle, New York, Arlington, Vermont and later Stockbridge, Massachusetts Rockwell was surrounded by artists, many of them working for the same magazines as Rockwell. These artists and other neighbors were always glad to help Rockwell construct these photographs, and it became a bit of civic pride when they would see themselves in his paintings.

On March 4, 1944 The Tattoo Artist, (also known as The Tattooist) was featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post. As with many of Rockwell’s paintings there was a good-natured joke built into them and The Tattoo Artist was no exception. The painting shows the tattooist, Mead Schaeffer, with disheveled hair, soiled pants and house slippers tattooing yet another name on the sailor’s well-worn arm. The sailor, Clarence Decker, is adding to his collection of women’s names on his upper arm. Sadie, Rosietta, Ming Fu, Olga, and Sing Lee all have a black line through their names to let the world know they are history. Below that marked-out list Schaeffer is putting the finishing touches on yet another name, “Betty” the sailor’s new love. The painting not only points out the finicky nature of love but also the permanency of tattooing. Long after these women are in the past, their names are still in the present.

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