Tain't You by Norman Rockwell
May 10, 1917 Issue of Life Magazine
Tain't You, this Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of Life Magazine published May 10, 1917.
Alternate titles for this picture include Miss Perseval and Boy Drawing on Fence.
This was the first cover by Rockwell to appear on Life Magazine. An illustration appeared on the Life magazine cover four times in 1917.
Life magazine use Rockwell's talents often. Twenty eight Rockwell covers were published between 1917 and 1924. These numbers made Life magazine one of the "Big Five" magazines for collectors to collect their covers. The "Big Five" are, in order of importance, The Saturday Evening Post, Boys' Life, The Literary Digest, The Country Gentleman and Life magazine.
This cover was published just before America's entry into World War I. The covers after this one deal with the subject matter of soldiers and their families. This cover, in contrast, is completely light-hearted in nature.
This boy has been drawing on this fence long enough to have almost finished his parody of Perseval. That is probably not the correct spelling of the man's name, but it is certainly close enough for a twelve year old boy.
Here is the complete list of all Norman Rockwell magazine covers.
"Perseval" has caught the boy in the act of making fun of him on a public fence. He is standing on tiptoes trying to see the picture. He is obviously tall enough to read the title, "Miss Perseval," at the top of the boy's artwork.
Another boy, the artist's accomplice, can be seen scooting around the corner of the fence.
The artistic boy, unable to run off in time, deftly says to his victim, "Tain't you!" Rockwell does not show us whether this ruse works or not. Instead he leaves it to our fancy just how gullible "Perseval" is. Our first question would be whether the boy just blurted it out or did the object of his caricature ask who the drawing represents.
To our trained eyes, it is obvious who the subject of the drawing is. "Perseval" is expertly represented from the hat on his head with the pink band around it to his green suit to his cane and gloved hands. Why, the only real difference is that the cigarette in his hand is in his mouth in the drawing!
Now let me share an inside joke. Rockwell was actually poking fun at himself with this painting. Norman P. Rockwell's middle name was Percival.
And he hated that name.
In his autobiography, My Adventures as an Illustrator, he said that he lived in fear that the nickname "Mercy Percy" would stick and he would be haunted forever by it. His earlier works were signed "NPR" or "N P Rockwell" or "Norman P Rockwell." After he acheived a measure of renown, he dropped the "P" completely.
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