Man Playing Santa by Norman Rockwell
December 9, 1916 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Man Playing Santa, this Norman Rockwell painting from the cover of The Saturday Evening Post appeared on the cover of the December 9, 1916 issue.
This was Rockwell's sixth Post cover. It was also his first Post cover with a Christmas theme, specifically Santa Claus.
The location of the original oil on canvas painting is not known.
This painting also appears in three Rockwell commentary books. It appears as illustration 327 of Norman Rockwell's America by Christopher Finch, as illustration 92 of Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator by Thomas Buechner and on page 75 of Norman Rockwell, A Definitive Catalogue by Laurie Norton Moffatt.
Surely, this painting reminded the children to be on their best behavior for at least three more weeks. Being nice instead of naughty for three weeks was possible for most children. Christmas was almost there!
Man Playing Santa
This painting represents a more complete painting than a lot of other early Norman Rockwell Post covers. Instead of painting characters silhouetted on a white background, Rockwell was able to feature a partial background in this illustration.
Hence, we are treated to delightful pictures of toys on the shelves in the background and the foreground.
Rockwell painted a veritable cornucopia of toys in the painting.
Toys were then, as now, a mainstay of children's Christmas presents. Children in 1916 did not receive the bounty given to children these days.
Still, the selection in the shop is impressive.
Toys, Toys, Toys!
Look closely for these toys:
Man Playing Santa 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.
The only characters in this illustration are the older man and the shopkeeper. The story Rockwell is telling with this painting is children at Christmas.
The older gentleman dresses up as Santa Claus for his grandchildren or other children he may be fond of. The toys, though adults love to play with toys (c'mon, admit it,) are all children's toys.
This painting is actually the first of two parts. The second part appeared on the cover of the December 1916 American Boy entitled Merry Christmas, Grandpa. You can seen which toy Grandpa bought. Hint: it's not on the list, because I'm not sure what to call it.
This painting reminds us who the secular Christmas celebration actually is for: the children.
May you and your children have a Merry Christmas!
Norman Rockwell's Man Playing Santa (1916)
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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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