Written by Allie Gloe, Curatorial Intern
Norman Rockwell was born in New York in 1894. After graduating from art school in his home state, he immediately found work as an illustrator, creating works for magazine covers, business advertisements and calendars. Working with big-name companies led to a long, successful career and also provided Rockwell with a strong sense of social awareness. Rockwell often illustrated the idea of the “American Life.” Because he was given so many commercial opportunities, his art reflected ideas and beliefs that could be widely received – ordinary people, ordinary lives, simple times, Americans and innocence. Most importantly, his paintings and illustrations told stories.
Second Holiday is an example of one of his illustrations that told a story. Rockwell created this illustration for a short story in American Magazine in 1939. The short story takes place at a clinic in Minnesota, where an eldery couple sits in a waiting room. Avoiding eye contact, the man and woman sit side by side and stare into space as their arms intertwine. The couple thinks of their visit to the clinic as a “holiday” due to the fact that it is only their “second” time away from their hometown in decades. And although the elderly woman is sick and dying, both the husband and the wife refuse to accept this reality in order to protect and support one other.
“I love the clarity of color and the intense emotion that is shown on the faces of the elderly couple – the sadness of losing the one you love.” – anonymous