Indian At Mailbox by Norman Rockwell
April 23, 1938 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Indian At Mailbox, a Norman Rockwell painting, was published on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post dated April 23, 1938. This image is another one of the favorites of Rockwell collectors the world over, an unmistakeable classic image of the universe that Rockwell captured on canvas.
An alternate title for this painting is See America First.
This painting was Rockwell's 179th overall out of 322 total paintings that were published on the cover of the Post. From his first cover illustration, Boy With Baby Carriage in 1916 to his last, Portrait of John F. Kennedy, in 1963, Norman Rockwell's career with the Saturday Evening Post spanned 47 years.
This was also the second cover for The Post in 1938. In 1938, there were six Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers published.
The original oil on canvas painting, 36 x 28 inches or 91.5 x 71 cm, is part of a private collection.
This painting also appears in three Rockwell commentary books. It appears:
One study also appears onpage 143 of The Norman Rockwell Catalogue.
Pristine original copies of this magazine cover routinely sell for big bucks on eBay, when it is offered. And to think it only cost five cents originally! And it was mint condition then, too.
Indian At Mailbox
In this painting, Norman Rockwell shows us a bit of irony in the subject of junk mail.
Here we have a native American who has probably lived his whole life in America.
We do not know whether this man has traveled abroad or not, but his expression indicates that he has not.
But he is receiving untargeted junk mail from an advertiser telling him that he should keep his tourist dollars at home.
The "See America First" slogan was first adopted in 1906 by the Great Northern Railway to promote their new resort facilities in northern Montana. The Railway was trying to keep visitors from going to Europe in search of picturesque scenery. The campaign was an effort to promote visitors to the existing national parks, Yellowstone, Yosemite, Mount Rainier, and Crater Lake.
Obviously the mail part of the 1938 campaign occurred before the science of targetting prospects was developed. Either that, or the promotors simply mailed this brochure to everyone who had a mailbox.
This man's mailbox has seen its better days. It looks like it is barely hanging on its post.
I have often wondered why Rockwell painted his main character wrapped in a blanket. Sure, spring mornings can be chilly, but why a blanket instead of a coat or jacket? We know Rockwell was very thorough and intent on accuracy, so cutting a corner with the image would not have been a factor. Any ideas?
I believe that the idea for this painting came to Rockwell after he received a similar mailing. After he read the brochure, he searched his brain to find a person who would have absolutely no need to receive that brochure, the person who had never left America.
The character looks as if he rarely receives mail. It looks as if he excitedly opened his letter when he saw that he had received mail, only to find it to be untargeted junk mail.
Indian At Mailbox was only one of 322 Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers; Here is the list of Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover illustrations.
Here is the complete list of all Norman Rockwell magazine covers.
Rockwell has just started using photography to capyure his scenes when he painted this picture.
The Indian's expression, captured by a photograph, was probably one of several that the model showed during the photo session.
Can you imagine having to hold that expression for the hours it would take for the artist to record it on canvas?
The use of photography in composing his images was a boon for his models as well for the artist, Norman Rockwell.
Norman Rockwell's Indian At Mailbox (1938)
Remember to check back often.
Do you have a personal story about this painting? Do you know the model personally? Do you have a different take on the commentary?
Norman Rockwell Quotes:
I'll never have enough time to paint all the pictures I'd like to.
No man with a conscience can just bat out illustrations. He's got to put all his talent and feeling into them!
Some people have been kind enough to call me a fine artist. I've always called myself an illustrator. I'm not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life.
Right from the beginning, I always strived to capture everything I saw as completely as possible.
The secret to so many artists living so long is that every painting is a new adventure. So, you see, they're always looking ahead to something new and exciting. The secret is not to look back.
I can take a lot of pats on the back. I love it when I get admiring letters from people. And, of course, I'd love it if the critics would notice me, too.
You must first spend some time getting your model to relax. Then you'll get a natural expression.
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