Woman and Man Seated Back to Back by Norman Rockwell
October 9, 1920 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post
Woman and Man Seated Back to Back, this Norman Rockwell painting, appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post published October 9, 1920.
The alternate title for this painting is Political Argument. Another alternate title is Election Debate.
This painting was Rockwell's thirty-fourth overall picture out of 322 total featured on the cover of 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.
This was also the ninth Rockwell cover in 1920. The Post featured a Rockwell illustration on its cover eleven times in 1920.
The location of the original painting is not known.
This illustration has been reproduced in four Rockwell commentary books, on page 28 of The Norman Rockwell Album, as illustration 201 of Norman Rockwell's America by Christopher Finch, as illustration 135 of Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator by Thomas Buechner and on page 84 of Norman Rockwell, A Definitive Catalogue by Laurie Norton Moffatt.
All of the early Rockwell Post covers are very rare in pristine condition. This one is also hard to find. I have seen copies sell for more than one hundred dollars.
Woman and Man Seated Back to Back
This Norman Rockwell painting shows us just how deeply seated our beliefs can become. The belief illustrated here is that there is any real difference between the two major American political parties.
Any modern political observer knows that both parties stand for bigger and more intrusive government. The difference between them is the same as the difference between either side of the same coin. Now I'll leave the soapbox and discuss the painting.
Here we see a man and woman, sitting back to back, each holding an "opposite" opinion on the 1920 United States presidential election. Presumably, they are just as intransigent on the other electoral races held the same year. We can tell that they are firm in their political beliefs by the looks on their faces.
The 1920 presidential election between Warren G. Harding, the Republican nominee, and James M Cox, the Democratic nominee, was evidently hotly contested. Harding won by a landslide.
Harding's landslide was partly fueled by the votes of German-Americans and Irish-Americans.
The German-Americans voted anti-Democratic because of persecution during the First World War. Irish-Americans voted anti-Democratic because Woodrow Wilson broke his promise to push for a independent Ireland at the peace treaty conference at Versailles.
Rockwell presents the basic choice here.
The woman supports Republican candidate Harding. This is evidenced by the Republican seal on her side of the canvas and the newspaper in her lap that has Harding's photograph and "Harding" in the headline.
Woman and Man Seated Back to Back 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 man supports Democratic candidate Cox. Rockwell painted the Democratic seal on his side of the canvas. The man's newspaper headline reads "COX."
Rockwell wisely refrains from taking one side or the other. After all, "Heads" the government wins, "Tails" the American public loses. Either way, it adds up to more of the same. Then, as now, the need for a real choice is clear.
Then, as now, the one party duopoly only brings more of the same.
(Image Only) Copyright © 1920 Saturday Evening Post & Curtis Publishing Company
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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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