1894-1978 | American
Poor Richard's Almanack (Ben Franklin's Belles)
Signed and dedicated "To my good friend JW. Loos / Cordially / Norman Rockwell" (lower right)
Charcoal on paper
This humorous drawing by the celebrated American illustrator Norman Rockwell was created for Poor Richard: The Almanacks for the Years 1733-1758, a commemorative collection of the famed almanacs written by Benjamin Franklin. When the Heritage Press published the 230th anniversary edition of Franklin’s famous pamphlets, they turned to Rockwell, the most famous illustrator of the day, to bring the book to life. Rockwell painted and drew over three dozen vignettes for the book, most of which are now in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum (Stockbridge, Massachusetts). This exceptional drawing is a well-executed study for one of the most famous of these vignettes known as Ben Franklin's Belles.
A consummate storyteller, Rockwell pulls the viewer into this scene, which exemplifies the artist's celebrated sense of humor. At the composition's center is a middle-aged Ben Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States who was also a celebrated inventor and scientist. Responsible for the lightening rod, the Franklin stove, bifocals, and, of course, Poor Richard's Almanack, Franklin's legendary intellect made him a favorite of Parisian society, and particularly of Parisian women. The renowned ladies' man is shown here surrounded by a group of adoring young Parisian beauties, reading from a text while a statue of cupid looms in the background. Subtle yet comical, Rockwell's composition alludes to Franklin's more amorous pursuits as well as his intellectual ones.
Exuding incredible character and dynamic personality, the work is quintessential Rockwell in each and every detail. Unarguably the preeminent American illustrator of the 20th century, Rockwell's images tapped into the nostalgia of the American people. For much of his career, his poignant paintings became the visual identity of The Saturday Evening Post, with 322 of his works featured on the cover, plus numerous others used for illustrations. Nearly all major magazines of the day called upon Rockwell for his outstanding compositions, including Literary Digest, Life, Country Gentleman, and Look. Rockwell's distinguished career earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.
Composed in 1963
Paper: 28 3/4" high x 23 7/8" wide
Frame: 32 7/8" high x 27 7/8" wide
Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, 1986, Laurie Norton Moffatt, p. 939, no. B427c