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Poor Richard's Almanacks by Norman Rockwell

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Poor Richard's Almanacks by Norman Rockwell

- Item No.

Illustrations of Benjamin Franklin's Poor Richard proverbs populate this Norman Rockwell masterpiece

Key Features

  • This rare Norman Rockwell oil was featured in Poor Richard: The Almanacks for the Years 1733-1758
  • Rockwell cleverly visualized some of Franklin's best sayings in this marvelous composition
  • Rockwell was asked to illustrate this 230th anniversary celebration of Franklin's almanacs
  • Signed "Norman Rockwell" (lower right)
  • Painted in 1963
  • Board: 22" high x 34" wide; Frame: 29 7/8" high x 40 1/2" wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    B: 34; F: 40 1/2 Inches
  • Height:
    B: 22; F: 29 7/8 Inches
  • Period:
    20th Century
  • Origin:
    America
  • Subject:
    Historical
  • Artist:
    Rockwell, Norman
Norman Rockwell
1894-1978 · American

Poor Richard Almanacks

Signed "Norman Rockwell" (lower right)
Oil on board

 "In painting, the whole isn't the sum of the parts, you have to see the whole thing at once all the time you are painting·" - Norman Rockwell

This masterful, engaging painting by Norman Rockwell was created for and is featured in Poor Richard: The Almanacks for the Years 1733-1758, a commemorative collection of the famed almanacs written by Benjamin Franklin. In 1964, the Heritage Press published the 230th anniversary edition of Franklin's famous pamphlets, Poor Richard's Almanac, and turned to Rockwell, the most famous illustrator of the day to bring the book to life. Produced by Franklin under a pseudonym, Richard Saunders, for 25 years, from 1733 to 1758, these almanacs were read far and wide for their informative advice about everything, from the weather and travel to European rulers, and their humorous yet sage pronouncements. Rockwell painted and drew over three dozen vignettes for the book, most of which are now in the Rockwell museum. However, this is the largest of six oils he painted to be included as color-plates in this book, and this is the only one not in private collections.   

Entitled Poor Richard Almanacks, this painting is actually nine magnificent separate oil paintings all on the same canvas. Each painting depicts a different, well-known "saying" from the pamphlet. Many of the quotes are quite humorous, and virtually all are still quite relevant today ("Fish and Visitors stink after three days" and "Old Boys have their playthings as well as young ones; the only difference is the price" come to mind). Rockwell also played tricks with the painting, as the boy in the upper left and the old gray haired woman in the center bottom are both actually Norman himself! 

Rockwell led a very long and incredibly successful career as an artist. His first commission was painted when he was only 16 and his irresistible paintings of American life made him the American illustrator of the 20th century. Rockwell said himself, "Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed." Painting poignant pictures that graced the covers of Literary Digest, The Saturday Evening Post, American, Life, Country Gentleman, and Look magazines, Rockwell's distinguished career earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.  

Rockwell's prodigious talent for storytelling is clearly evident in this painting. His visual interpretation of Franklin's proverbs allowed the readers to see themselves in our nation's history. He intuitively tapped into the nostalgia of the American people and his ability to create visual stories that expressed the desires of a nation helped to clarify and, in a sense, create that nation's vision. While history was in the making all around him, Rockwell chose to fill his canvases with the small details and nuances of ordinary people in everyday life. Taken together, his many paintings capture the essence of the American spirit. "I paint life as I would like it to be," Rockwell once said. Mythical, idealistic, and innocent, his paintings evoke a longing for a time and place that existed in his rich imagination and in the hopes and aspirations of the nation. Celebrated filmmaker and Rockwell collector Steven Spielberg perhaps said it best: "Rockwell painted the American dream-better than anyone."

Painted in 1963

Board: 22" high x 34" wide
Frame: 29 7/8" high x 40 1/2" wide

References:
Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, 1986, Laurie Norton Moffatt
Norman Rockwell's America, 2012, Judy Goffman Cutler and Laurence S. Cutler, et al. 

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