The Love Song

Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)

Currently on View in K205
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The Love Song presents one of Rockwell's major themes, the different stages of life. A young girl wistfully listens to music played by two elderly men. The painting's title is printed on the music sheet.

An old map may suggest where the scene takes place and also recalls the image-within-an-image process Rockwell often used in his works.

Rockwell, America's premier illustrator, created more than 300 covers for the popular magazine The Saturday Evening Post, capturing with warmth and humor his idealized vision of the everyday lives of Americans.

Curatorial Summary

As a young boy Norman Rockwell spent his summers at country farms, which he believed influenced his subject matter. One of his teachers sent Rockwell to a publisher, where in 1912 he received his first important assignment—illustrating a children’s book, a project that caught the attention of the editors of Boy’s Life magazine. His next assignment came from Boys’ Life, where he became art director at age 19. In 1916 Rockwell went to Philadelphia to see the editor of The Saturday Evening Post. The paintings he brought with him were accepted for covers. This success opened the opportunity to sell his work to Life, Judge, and Leslie’s magazines.

After World War I, Rockwell began producing advertising illustrations for Jell-O, Willys-Overland Motors, Orange Crush, and calendar illustrations for Boy Scouts calendars. In response to a speech by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell painted his most famous work, the Four Freedoms, which was published in the Post and used to sell war bonds. Rockwell worked on special stamps for the US Postal Service and posters for the Treasury Department, the military, and Hollywood movies. He produced illustrations for mail-order catalogs, Hallmark greeting cards, and illustrated books. When the Post cut back on its illustrations, Rockwell continued to create work for Look and McCall’s magazines. In 1993 a Rockwell museum opened near his home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. The two-volume book of Rockwell’s illustrations the institution published contains four thousand illustrations by the artist.

The linear quality of the scene in The Love Song contrasts dramatically with the impressionist landscape seen through the window. Rockwell uses this contrast to imply that his talents are variable even though his means of expression is illustration.


Finch, Christopher. Norman Rockwell’s America. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1975.

Hennessey, Maureen Hart, and Anne Knutson. Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People. Atlanta: High Museum of Art; Stockbridge, MA: Norman Rockwell Museum, 1999.

Klein, Adam G. Norman Rockwell. Edina, MN: ABDO Pub. Co., 2007.

Moffatt, Laurie Norton, and Norman Rockwell. Norman Rockwell, A Definitive Catalogue. Stockbridge, MA: Norman Rockwell Museum, 1986.

Schorr, Collier. The Essential Norman Rockwell. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1999.

Indianapolis Museum of Art: Highlights of the Collection (2005)

Norman Rockwell's Love Song, which was reproduced as an illustration in the December 1926 issue of Ladies Home Journal, presents one of this popular artist's major themes: youth contrasted with old age. A young girl listens wistfully as two elderly men play the flute and the clarinet. Leaning against the metronome is a music sheet indicating the tune's-and the painting's-title, ""The Love Song."" Rockwell, an avid collector of antique maps, added an old map to the scene, enhancing its quaint setting.

Rockwell was born in New York City and trained at the Chase School of Art, the National Academy of Design, and the Art Students League. In 1910, he set up a studio in New Rochelle, New York, the home of such famous illustrators as J.C. Leyendecker and his brother Frank, and Howard Chandler Christy. Rockwell was a young man of thirty-two when he was commissioned to paint The Love Song, yet he had already been designing cover illustrations for the Saturday Evening Post for a decade. Between 1916 and 1961, Rockwell illustrated more than three hundred covers for that magazine alone. He produced some of the most recognizable images in American art, always treating his subjects-""average"" Americans in everyday situations-with warmth and humor. In his later years, Rockwell became more political. His 1965 illustration The Problem We All Live With dealt with segregated education in the United States.

Maybe . . . I unconsciously decided that, even if it wasn't an ideal world, it should be and so [I] painted only the ideal aspects of it.
-Norman Rockwell, 1960

Purchased from the artist by Freeman E. Hertzel; Anne Blackman (niece of Freeman E. Hertzel) and Sidney Blackman through Carol Smithwick; given to the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields, Indianapolis, Indiana in 1997.

Object Information

Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)
creation date
oil on canvas
38-3/8 x 42-7/8 in. (canvas)
42-3/8 x 47-1/8 in. (framed, Optium)
mark descriptions
signed and dated in red, L.R.: Norman Rockwell '26
accession number
credit line
Gift of Anne G. Blackman and Sidney W. Blackman in memory of Freeman E. Hertzel
© Norman Rockwell
American Painting and Sculpture to 1945

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