Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Norman Rockwell goes around the world

In the 1950s, ad agency J. Walter Thompson asked Norman Rockwell to fly around the world on Pan Am airlines.

His mission: to produce a series of illustrations to help advertise the airline.

(Video link)
From Rockwell’s point of view at least it was not a successful campaign. Although he diligently sketched and took photos of tourists and exotic locales, his ideas were at cross purposes with the client's, and only a few ads ended up being published.

“When I returned home and submitted my sketchbook it was rejected. Oh, I did a few ads. Nothing to justify the time and money which had been spent, though. Because the agency and Pan American did not want pictures of the strange lands and people. "Those would only frighten tourists," they said; "we want pictures of smart-looking tourists sunning on smart beaches in front of smart hotels." But that's not the kind of picture I can do. So I did nothing.”

(Video link) Fortunately, a couple of the promotional videos survive, complete with Rockwell’s droll observations.

While sketching the Hawaiian girls in their grass skirts, he says: “It’s kind of difficult to sketch when they move with this peculiar rotary motion.”

William House, son of one of the ad execs who accompanied Rockwell, has produced a detailed recollection of the trip (Click on "Reverse Spins," below).

Photo from Reverse Spins
Video ©AeroArt International. All rights reserved.
The Norman Rockwell Museum


MrCachet said...

Fine post!

Michael Oxley said...

Excellent post!

(The link to House's recollections isn't working for me, though..)

James Gurney said...

Michael, I always appreciate it when people tell me about bum links. Please try the "Reverse Spins" link just below, which goes to those recollections.

Michael Oxley said...

Perfect! That worked! Thanks James.

In watching the videos, I'm reminded of your travel videos where you're constantly sketching everything and everyone around you.

Thanks again for the post!

James Gurney said...

I've seen these actual sketchbooks in the Norman Rockwell museum collection, and my impression was that NR didn't really have his heart in the sketches. Now I can see why--he was basically doing the sketches as a publicity stunt for the camera, but for the illustrations, he was really he was taking photo reference (he traveled with a photographer).

Shirish said...

I fail to understand why every representational picture of India has to have these snake charmers? India has moved a long way ahead of those times!

Justin M. said...

It's always been a point of bizarre fascination to ask my friends who draw and produce work where they've traveled and what they've picked up. And It worries me how many of the current artists travel from their web browsers alone...

Justin M. said...

P.S. Is Mr. Rockwell EVER WITHOUT his pipe?! ha, I've never seen actual video of the man before this post but I can see now why his caricatures always include a pipe.

Meera Rao said...

Great post! Thanks for sharing.