The Marriage License by Norman Rockwell
June 11, 1955 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
The Marriage License, a Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post published June 11, 1955. This is another timeless favorite of Rockwell collectors, a classic for the ages.
This painting was Rockwell's fourth cover for The Post in 1955. In 1955, there were five Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers published.
This was also Rockwell's 485th 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, 45.5 x 42.5 inches or 115.5 x 108 cm, is currently part of the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge Massachusetts.
This painting also appears in five Rockwell commentary books. It appears:
It is also reproduced in The Norman Rockwell Poster Book.
A photograph used in painting this illustration is reproduced in Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera by Ron Schick on page 191, as well as the painting itself.
I have seen pristine original copies of this magazine cover sell for well over one hundred dollars on eBay. And to think it only cost fifteen cents originally! And it was mint condition then, too.
The Marriage License
This classic Norman Rockwell painting shows a young couple applying for a marriage license.
This is one of Rockwell's most recognizable images and with good reason.
The sign on the open door, "Marriage Licenses," starts the telling of this story.
The three human characters in the painting are the young man and woman getting married and the clerk.
This painting, like many of Norman Rockwell's artworks, features several contrasts. The first I notice is how bright the daylight is through the window and how much darker it is inside the office.
In fact, the only feature of the painting brighter than the window is the young lady's yellow dress and shoes.
The next and most obvious contrast is the young couple and the licensing clerk.
Compare how attentive and intent the young couple (modeled by Francis Mahoney and Joan LaHart from Lee, Massachusetts) is concerning their application and how detached and almost bored the clerk (modeled by Jason Braman) appears.
This is understandable. After all, this is old hat to the elderly clerk who has seen it all and seen it many times. Only a thorough search for the records would reveal how many marriage licenses he has issued.
This same public records clerk may have been presiding when the parents of these two applied for their marriage license.
Paint is peeling from the dingy walls. Cigarette butts are deposited on the dingy floor. The pot bellied stove is perhaps the clerk's only heater in the winter.
The Marriage License 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.
And yet, here is this young couple, he in a new suit, she in a new dress, coming to this ancient relic of an office applying to obtain permission from the state to start their new life together.
We do not even know whether the tabby cat is the clerk's pet or a wanderer who only came in through the open door or window. Surely, though, the clerk is not completely alone. After all, he does enjoy a single flower on the geranium plant in the window. But even that plant looks sickly to me.
The calendar on the wall, complimentary from the Housatonic National Bank, reinforces the publication date. It reads June 11 also. Rockwell must have been a valuable asset, indeed, to the Post to be able to plan ahead and include the publication date in his painting!
It will not be long now before they can say just married.
(Image Only) Copyright © 1955 Saturday Evening Post & Curtis Publishing Company
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?
Click below to see contributions from other visitors to this page...
Coincidence and Memories
Grandma's Best Friend
My comments Not rated yet
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.
More at BrainyQuote.
Images are copyrighted by their respective copyright holders.
Graphic Files Protected by Digimarc.
Contact us for details about using our articles on your website.
The only requirements are an acknowledgement and a link.