20 Things I Learned About Norman Rockwell From American Mirror, The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell

12/16/2013 05:58 pm ET Updated Feb 15, 2014
  1. His middle name was Perceval.

  • He judged the first Miss America contest in 1922.
  • He saw himself primarily as a storyteller in the Dickensian mode.
  • He claimed to be an illustrator rather than an artist.
  • He disliked driving but loved to walk, and preferred walking uphill to walking down hill.
  • He was an excellent square-dancer.
  • He lived in Vermont for 14 years without painting a single landscape. His response, when a friend pointed out a beautiful vista, was "Thank Heavens I don't have to paint it!"
  • He drank Coca-Cola for breakfast.
  • To generate ideas for pictures, he had to isolate himself and then imagine boys playing around a lamppost.
  • He was in therapy for years with psychoanalyst Erik Erikson.
  • The Saturday Evening Post once told him to remove an African American from a group picture because the magazine's policy was to only show Blacks in service-industry jobs. He complied, but later became an ardent civil rights supporter.
  • He had difficulty expressing anger and was only seen to lose his temper three times, once when a man refused to sell the artist his hat for a large sum of money.
  • He "had no difficulty finding friends who were inordinately devoted to him."
  • He "required the nearly constant companionship of men whom he perceived as physically strong."
  • He was compulsive about cleanliness and swept his studio 4 - 6 times daily.
  • He always wore shoes that were too small.
  • John Updike once said that Rockwell had a "surreally expressive vocabulary of shoes."
  • His first wife left him for another man after 14 year of marriage. His second wife was an alcoholic. His biographer implies (but never actually states) that Rockwell was a man with repressed homoerotic tendencies who finally found happiness with his 3rd wife, a closeted lesbian.
  • He was friends with Walt Disney.
  • The record price for a Rockwell painting is15.4 million, a price about which, according to his biographer, he would feel "incredulous."