Sunday, March 22, 2020

Was Norman Rockwell a WWI camouflage artist?

Norman Rockwell, Rosie the Riveter
Did American illustrator Norman Rockwell serve as a camouflage artist during World War I? There are differing accounts, one of which was published in International Studio in September 1923, pp. 521-522—

When the United States entered the war, Rockwell was one of many young men from New Rochelle to volunteer for the Navy. He was sent to Charleston, en route overseas for camouflage work, but he never got beyond the embarkation port. His superiors were delighted by the discovery that he could paint portraits, so in Charleston he stayed and found himself extremely busy, for while his talent won him much consideration, other duties fell to his lot as well. During this period, the magazines did not lose track of his whereabouts and got special permission for him to continue making covers with timely subjects of strong patriotic appeal. With the signing of the armistice, he was anxious to be discharged as quickly as possible. His commanding officer was willing to comply with his wishes but was powerless to act, orders having been issued indefinitely postponing the granting of any honorable discharges. He discovered one channel, however—men could be discharged because of "inadaptability," and so it happened that Norman Rockwell, nationally known illustrator, was discharged from the United States Navy upon the ground of "inadaptability" as a third-class varnisher and painter.

Other sources have provided other versions, such as for example a Patriots Point blog post (2010) titled Norman Rockwell at the Charleston Navy Yard.

He continued to use his illustration skills during World War II, among the most famous examples of which was his portrait of Rosie the Riveter (shown above), which was used as a cover for the Saturday Evening Post in 1943.