Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes by Norman Rockwell
November 24, 1945 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes, a Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post published November 24, 1945. This is another timeless favorite of Rockwell collectors, a classic for the ages.
An alternate title for the illustration is Thanksgiving, 1945.
This painting was Rockwell's seventh cover for The Post in 1945. In 1945, there were nine Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers published.
This was also Rockwell's 234th cover illustration out of 322 Rockwell painted for the Post. Rockwell's career with the Post spanned 47 years, from his first cover illustration, Boy With Baby Carriage in 1916 to his last, Portrait of John F. Kennedy, in 1963.
The original oil on canvas painting, 35 x 33.5 inches or 89 x 85 cm, is part of the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge Massachusetts.
This painting also appears in many Rockwell commentary books. It appears:
I have seen pristine original copies of this magazine cover sell for big bucks on eBay. And to think it only cost ten cents originally! Of course, it was mint condition then, too.
Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes
This is one of the most touching Norman Rockwell paintings. It is also a favorite of many a collector.
In this painting, we can see a son, recently returned from the battles of World War Two, enjoying the company of his mother, preparing for a Thanksgiving Day dinner. The dinner he anxiously awaits is probably the first lovingly prepared Thanksgiving feast he has enjoyed in some time.
One of the most loathed duties for a soldier is Kitchen Patrol, KP. Yet here is this recently discharged soldier gladly, even lovingly, peeling potatoes.
What a difference a change in location can make.
The models for the illustration are also real life mother and son. Richard "Dick" Hagelberg is the soldier and Saara Hagelberg is the mother.
The story of how the Hagelbergs came to be Rockwell models is an interesting one.
Rockwell was almost at his deadline when he found the models he wanted to use for this Thanksgiving classic. He had already posed two sets of models that didn't quite fit his idea of what he wanted the picture to say.
As luck would have it, though, Dick Hagelberg was the owner of an Arlington, Vermont dairy farm and the Rockwell family's milkman. Hagelberg had recently returned from active duty and was delivering the weekly milk supply.
Norman Rockwell knew immediately that Dick was the model he wanted for the painting. He was delighted to find that Dick's mother, Saara, might also pose.
Both models were reluctant to pose. Rockwell finally convinced the pair when he offered them $15 each for about an hour's worth of posing. That adjusts for inflation to over $180 in 2010 dollars. Pretty good rate for an hour, eh?
Rockwell was ecstatic to have authentic models for his painting. Dick was a real veteran who had seen action during the recent war. He had survived five years in the 9th Army Air Corps. He had flown in 65 daylight bombings of Europe, including supporting the D-Day invasion.
Saara Hagelberg was his mother who was very thankful to have him home safe and sound. Many mothers and sons had not fared as well during the conflict.
As was his custom, Rockwell offered the painting to his model after it had been published. Dick Hagelberg declined the offer.
Why? Rockwell, as was his habit and, indeed, his prerogative as an artist, had somewhat embellished the mother's appearance. He had added twenty pounds and twenty years to her appearance.
Dick, loyal son that he was, was upset that the mother in the painting was not the mother he knew. He was upset as his mother probably was also.
Within two years, the painting had been purchased by a priest. The painting then found a temporary home in Winchendon, Massachusetts in an American Legion Post after it was donated by the priest.
A Norman Rockwell Museum expert discovered the painting in the late 1970's and borrowed it for the museum. The painting remains there today.
The painting itself allows the viewer a glimpse of the makings of the traditional Thanksgiving feast.
In addition to the potatoes that the mother and son are peeling together, we can see a nice sized pumpkin, a pot of cranberries and a basket full of apples.
Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes 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.
On the table behind the pair are more seasonal foods, cabbage, collards and a large rutabaga. I also believe I see an orange or grapefruit and it looks like a lemon peeking out from behind the salt and pepper shakers.
It evokes entirely different emotions than 1943's Thanksgiving: Girl Praying.
(Image Only) Copyright © 1945 Saturday Evening Post & Curtis Publishing Company
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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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