Norman Rockwell Willie Gillis Series
From the Cover of The Saturday Evening Post
Norman Rockwell Willie Gillis series of paintings appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post starting with cover of the October 4, 1941 issue and continuing through the October 5, 1946 issue.
The eleven paintings featured on the Post cover told the story of a typical American soldier during World War Two.
Willie Gillis, Jr was a fictional American service man. His military career was tracked on the cover of the Post from induction through discharge without being depicted in battle.
Rockwell himself described Gillis as "an inoffensive, ordinary little guy thrown into the chaos of war."
During this time period, the Post boasted over 4 million subscribers. Many of those readers believed Gillis to be a real, flesh and blood soldier. The Post received lots of mail, especially from Gillises, inquiring about the private's well being.
Bob Buck, the Real Willie Gillis
Robert Otis "Bob" Buck was the young man who Rockwell discovered and picked to be the model for the Willie Gillis series of Saturday Evening Post covers.
Buck was 15 years old and 5'4" (1.63m) tall when he and Rockwell met for the first time. They met for the first time at a square dance in Arlington, Vermont.
Rockwell had been trying to find a model for a painting. Rockwell kept observing Buck from different angles contemplating the possibilities.
Rockwell loved painting interesting faces. Buck noticed and informed Rockwell that if he did not stop staring at him, Buck would knock him flat.
Buck was exempted from military service, but felt it was his patriotric duty to serve. He enlisted as a Naval aviator and served in the South Seas.
After Buck had enlisted, Rockwell painted him from memory and photographs. Many times, Buck as Willie was only present as an photograph in the background of the picture.
At one point, Rockwell was going to end the series, but the Post editors told him to continue. The series was immensely popular.
Willie Gillis: Food Package
Willie Gillis: Home Sweet Home
Willie Gillis: USO
Willie Gillis: Hometown News
Willie Gillis: What to Do in a Blackout
Willie Gillis: In Church
Willie Gillis: Girls with Letters
Willie Gillis: Cat's Cradle
Willie Gillis: New Year's Eve
Willie Gillis: Gillis Family Heritage
Willie Gillis: In College
Willie Gillis: In a Convoy
Norman Rockwell's Willie Gillis Series was only eleven 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.
There was also one more painting in the Norman Rockwell Willie Gillis series that was unpublished. Painted in 1943, Willie Gillis in a Convoy showed Willie in the back of a military transport vehicle, with his rifle at the ready. This was the closest to battle Willie was ever depicted. You can see it here.
This painting was donated by Rockwell to the Gardner High School in Gardner, Massachusetts. The school still owns the painting and displays it.
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?
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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