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Rockwell’s Dogs
  • Dog in both photos is thought to be his Springer Spaniel, Butch
  • Checkers, Norman Rockwell, 1928 Oil on canvas, 35" x 39"
  • Good Friends, Norman Rockwell, 1925. Oil on canvas.
  • Homecoming (Home from Camp), Norman Rockwell, 1961 Oil on board.
  • Juvenile Cowboy, Norman Rockwell, 1960
  • No Swimming, Norman Rockwell, 1921. Oil on canvas.
  • Photo of Norman and Mary Rockwell (and dog) sitting on the steps of his Lord Kit
  • The Veterinarian, Norman Rockwell, 1961 Oil on canvas
  • Your Faithful Friend, Norman Rockwell, c. 1925

For Norman Rockwell, dogs were important elements of both his artwork and his personal life. Realizing the viewer appeal of animals in illustrated narratives, he intentionally placed them as central figures in his compositions; it was typical for him to include them in Saturday Evening Post covers, advertising illustrations and family Christmas cards. 

 

Rockwell’s dogs accompanied him to the studio, occasionally napping on the floor alongside him as he worked. He also borrowed neighbors’ dogs to serve as models, sometimes engaging the neighbors themselves to assist in posing their pups. In addition to dogs, he worked diligently to coax poses out of horses, cows, deer and a bear, among others. In How I Make a Picture (1949), he cautioned other artists to depict four-legged creatures in a manner “just as carefully and understandingly as you paint the people.” 

 

In his reference files, Rockwell kept hundreds of photographs, negatives and magazine clippings of dogs for use in his art. “Mutts,” the heading for file folders of such images, points to Rockwell’s personal preference for lovable mongrels.

—Corry Kanzenberg, Curator of Archival Collections, Norman Rockwell Museum



Norman Rockwell: Behind the Paintings

Norman Rockwell captured the essence of middle-class, post-WWII America like few other artists before or since. Imagine our surprise—and interest—when we learned that Rockwell orchestrated meticulously composed photographs and used them as references for his iconic art. Many of those photos and their corresponding artwork are now on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., in an exhibit titled Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, and others can be found in the museum’s archives. With help from the museum’s talented professionals, who generously searched its collection for good examples, we share a few of the dog-related pairings with you here.

Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera
Through May 31, 2010
Norman Rockwell Museum
 
Can't get to the exhibit? Check out the companion book, Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera, by Ron Schick.

All photos and art are courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum and used with permission; All photographs are licensed by Norman Rockwell Licensing, Niles, Ill. and are from the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum

It’s A Dog's Life: Norman Rockwell Paints Man’s Best Friend

Juvenile Cowboy, Norman Rockwell, 1960 Advertisement illustration for The Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., 1960. Pencil on paper. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Photo of Norman and Mary Rockwell (and dog) sitting on the steps of his Lord Kitchener Road, New Rochelle studio, c. 1931. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Photo of Norman Rockwell working on First Trip to the Beauty Parlor with dog Pitter in his Stockbridge studio, 1972. Photo by Bill Scovill. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Photo of Norman Rockwell working on First Trip to the Beauty Parlor with dog Pitter in his Stockbridge studio, 1972. Photo by Bill Scovill. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Your Faithful Friend, Norman Rockwell, c. 1925 Metal printing block from sketch. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Checkers, Norman Rockwell, 1928 Oil on canvas, 35" x 39". Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, July 1929. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Going and Coming, Norman Rockwell, 1947. Oil on Canvas, 16" x 31 ½". Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, August 30, 1947. Norman Rockwell Museum Collection. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

Good Friends, Norman Rockwell, 1925. Oil on canvas. Illustration for Boy Scouts calendar, February 1927. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections, partial gift of Robert P. McNeill and Thomas B. McNeill in memory of Don McNeill, 2003. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

Homecoming (Home from Camp), Norman Rockwell, 1961 Oil on board. Sketch of a possible calendar illustration for The Boy Scouts of America. Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©NRELC: Niles, IL.

No Swimming, Norman Rockwell, 1921. Oil on canvas. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, June 4, 1921. Norman Rockwell Museum Collection. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN

The Veterinarian, Norman Rockwell, 1961 Oil on canvas, 29 1/2" x 28 1/2". Display advertisement for The Upjohn Company Collection of Pfizer Inc. ©NRELC: Niles, IL