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Willie Gillis: Package from Home by Norman Rockwell

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Willie Gillis: Package from Home by Norman Rockwell

- Item No.

Norman Rockwell introduced the world to the iconic Pvt. Willie Gillis with this exceptional painting

Key Features

  • This recently rediscovered oil by Norman Rockwell is the first in his famous Willis Gillis series
  • This exceptional painting appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on October 4, 1941
  • An unusually large canvas, it depicts new recruit Pvt. Gillis with a package from home
  • The Willie Gillis series was so popular that Post readers wrote letters of concern for his welfare
  • Signed "Norman Rockwell" (lower right)
  • Painted in 1941
  • Canvas: 51" high x 39" wide; Frame: 57" high x 45" wide

Item Details

  • Width:
    C: 39; F: 45 Inches
  • Height:
    C: 51; F: 57 Inches
  • Period:
    20th Century
  • Origin:
  • Subject:
  • Artist:
    Rockwell, Norman
Norman Rockwell
1894-1978 · American   

Willie Gillis: Package From Home  

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

This painting appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on October 4, 1941. 

This painting is featured in Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue (1986), page 147, by Laurie Norton Moffat, Telling Storries: Norman Rockwell (2010), page 104, by Virginia M. Mecklenburg, and Norman Rockwell's America (2012), front section and back index, by Judy Goffman and Laurence S. Cutler. In his iconic Willie Gillis series of Saturday Evening Post covers, Norman Rockwell championed "the plight of an inoffensive, ordinary little guy thrown into the chaos of war." This engaging and recently discovered oil on canvas, entitled Willie Gillis: Package From Home, was the first of this series of 11 total covers about a young private during World War II, and Rockwell's fourth cover for the Saturday Evening Post in 1941. An unusually large canvas, this piece is only recently rediscovered. According to the Wall Street Journal, it "hung in the headquarters of an undisclosed local company since 1968, when heirs of the painting's original owner gave it to the corporation during a merger." Comic yet still patriotic, it introduced the American wartime public to a young soldier who they came to know and love as if he were their own friend, brother or son. In fact, Willie Gillis was so beloved that many wrote letters to the Post enquiring after his well-being. At one point, Rockwell was inclined to end the series, but was urged to continue by the Post. The final painting in the series shows Willie in a safe, postwar college environment, peacefully studying under the presumed auspices of the G.I. Bill.  

In this painting, Rockwell used his well-honed talent for storytelling to give the war a human face. Willie is seen here as a young private receiving a long-awaited package from home. Sure to contain some homemade goodies, the package has attracted the attention of six other servicemen, with whom Willie would quickly make friends if he's willing to share his bounty. This painting also comments on the importance of correspondence from home to service people, and about the sense of camaraderie that transcended rank.

As is characteristic for Rockwell, he used a real person as a model for Willie. Robert Buck was 15 years old and 5' 4" tall when Rockwell spotted him at acquire dance in Arlington, Vermont. Rockwell's observations of Buck were obvious, and at one point, Buck threatened to "knock him flat" if Rockwell didn't stop staring. He had been exempted from military service which fit perfectly with the character of Willie, but after a few years, enlisted as a Naval aviator in the Pacific theater. After he enlisted, Rockwell continued to paint him using photographs until he came home. 

Norman 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.   

Painted in 1941

Canvas: 51" high x 39" wide
Frame: 57" high x 45" wide  

Artists Museums: 
National Museum of American Illustration, Newport, Rhode Island
National Portrait Gallery (portrait of President Richard Nixon), Washington, D.C. 
Uffizi Gallery, Florence, Italy
Smart Museum of Art, University of Chicago
The Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts   

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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Price: $4,850,000
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