Norman Rockwell's paintings often trigger nostalgia for simple, small town American life. But who were the people behind these iconic works of art? The traveling exhibition "Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera" presents the well-known paintings alongside the the photographs that inspired them, so you can finally compare and contrast his life and art.

norman rockwell behind the camera

rockwell photo

The artist snapped over 20,000 pictures during his prolific career, each telling a unique story of a simpler time. It's probably no surprise that Rockwell deliberately staged his photographs, choreographing every detail as if directing a film. In the beginning, he employed professional models for the job, but he later incorporated friends and family members into the mix. Earlier this year, the models reunited at the Bennington Museum, posing with the painted renditions of their childhood selves, bringing the history of their involvement full circle.

See the heartwarming photographs below and let us know what you think of Rockwell's combination of reality and sentimentality. Is it too kitschy or just right?

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  • The Runaway, Norman Rockwell, 1958. Oil on canvas, 35 3/4" x 33 1/2'" Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, September 20, 1958. ©1958 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s The Runaway, 1958. Photographer unidentified. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Soda Jerk, Norman Rockwell, 1953. Oil on canvas, 36” x 34”. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, August 22, 1953. ©1953 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. Collection of Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio. Bequest of J. Willard Loos.

  • Reference photos for Norman Rockwell’s Soda Jerk, 1953. Photos by Gene Pelham. Photo montage created by Ron Schick. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Tattoo Artist, Norman Rockwell, 1944. Oil on canvas, 43 1/8” x 33 1/8”. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 4, 1944. ©1944 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN. Collection of The Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, New York. Gift of the artist.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Tattoo Artist, 1944. Photo by Gene Pelham. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Circus, 1955. Photo by Bill Scovill. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s First Trip to The Beauty Shop, 1972. Photo by Louie Lamone. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Norman Rockwell, 1950. Oil on canvas, 46 1/8” x 43 3/8”. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, April 29, 1950. ©1950 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN Collection of The Berkshire Museum, Pittsfield, Massachusetts.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop, 1950. Photo by Gene Pelham. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Breakfast Table Political Argument, 1948. Photo by Gene Pelham. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s After the Prom, 1957. Photo by Bill Scovill. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Marriage Counselor, Norman Rockwell, 1963. Oil on canvas, 31 1/4” x 38 1/4” Intended for The Saturday Evening Post, unpublished. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Marriage Counselor, 1963. Photo by Bill Scovill. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

  • Little Girl Observing Lovers on a Train, Norman Rockwell, 1944. Oil on canvas, 22” x 20” Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, August 12, 1944 Collection of Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Robert M. Boynton.

  • Reference photo for Norman Rockwell’s Little Girl Observing Lovers on a Train, 1944. Photo by Gene Pelham. Licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, IL. From the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum.

"Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera" will show at the Vero Beach Museum of Art in Florida until January 13, 2013.

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