Before The Shot by Norman Rockwell
March 15, 1958 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Before The Shot, a Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post published March 15, 1958. This is yet another timeless favorite of Rockwell collectors, a classic for all the ages.
This painting was Rockwell's 299th overall out of 322 total paintings featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening 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.
This is also the first cover for The Post in 1958. In 1958, there were five Norman Rockwell Saturday Evening Post covers published. This was also the 299th Rockwell painting to be published on the cover of The Post.
I have seen pristine original copies of this magazine cover sell for big bucks on eBay. And to think it only cost fifteen cents originally! And it was mint condition then, too.
The whereabouts of the original oil on canvas painting of the published Before The Shot is unknown, although several studies are in private collections. This includes the first version.
This painting also appears in several Rockwell commentary books. It appears:
It is also reproduced in The Norman Rockwell Poster Book.
A study of this painting also appeared in Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective by Thomas Buechner on page 118.
A photograph used in painting this illustration is reproduced in Norman Rockwell: Behind the Camera by Ron Schick on page 186, as well as the painting itself.
The doctor was modeled by Donald Campbell, a real doctor by profession. Dr. Campbell modeled as a doctor in many other Rockwell paintings, including several Mass Mutual advertisements. The first version of Before The Shot was given to Dr. Campbell.
The boy was modeled by Ed Locke.
This classic Norman Rockwell painting shows a boy examining the credentials of his doctor.
Before The Shot
We have all done it. We have all looked at our doctor's diplomas and licenses. At least, I know I have. No one has to ask why is the boy checking doctor's credentials.
This little boy (modeled by eight year old Ed Locke, the same model for The Runaway) is just yielding to his natural curiousity. The fact that his rear end will be punctured with a hypodermic in just a few minutes does not diminish the nature of his inspection.
We do not know whether he has been reading the whole time he has been undressing or whether he suddenly realized that it might be a good idea to be an informed consumer. We can, however, see the degree of scrutiny he is giving the doctor's dipoloma.
No amount of information is going to make that needle feel any better, though!
A Real Doctor
This scene and the Post's publishing date take place during the dead of winter. The little boy's discarded jacket, scarf, gloves and hat bear testimony to the coldness of the weather outside. Of course, he would prefer to be outside playing in the snow. But his mother brought him to the doctor's office to get a shot.
The physician's waiting room is probably crammed full of sick patients. The doctor is probably hurrying somewhat in order to be able to see them all and get home while his supper is still hot. Let's hope, if only for the doctor's supper's sake, that the boy's scrutiny of the diploma answers more questions than it raises.
Maybe the doc will just sneak up behind the boy and make the shot quick and painless. Well, maybe quick, anyway!
Of course, as with any Norman Rockwell painting, the setting is completely accurate. From the balance scales to the paraphenalia on the counter all the way down to the tile floor and two chairs in the examining room, every little detail of a doctor's office in the late 50's is perfectly captured.
Since the model for the doctor was a real doctor, Dr. Donald Campbell, it is probably a safe auummption that the scaene takes place in a real examination room. This scene was probably staged at Dr. Campbell's office.
Before The Shot 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.
This painting is also Rockwell's treatment of a common situation in the physician's office.
Usually, in the doctor's office, it is the older patient carefully examining the credentials of a younger doctor. As stated above, this action is just human nature.
Rockwell has turned that common scene on its ear. His rendition showing a young patient examining the credentials of an older, obviously experienced, practitioner is just the opposite of the most common way the situation plays out.
About Before The Shot, Norman Rockwell had this to say in The Norman Rockwell Album:
I guess everyone has sat in the doctor's office and examined his diplomas, wondering how good a doctor he was. This cover occasioned a great argument among my family and friends: how much of the boy's fanny should be showing. Some said more, some less. I finally locked the door of the studio and, after communing with myself for some time, lowered his pants to their present position, a compromise which avoids shocking nudity and yet reveals enough to provoke humor.
Norman Rockwell's Before The Shot (1958)
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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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