Girl Choosing Hat, 1931 signed 'Norman / Rockwell' (lower right) oil on canvas 38 1/2 x 30in
PROVENANCE: The artist John Rockwell, Denver, Colorado, nephew of the artist, gift from the above Rosemary Woods Rockwell, Denver, Colorado, wife of the above, by descent By descent to the present owner
LITERATURE: Saturday Evening Post, 31 January 1931, n.p., cover illustration. T. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist & Illustrator, New York, 1970, p. 264, illustrated. A.L. Guptill, Norman Rockwell, Illustrator, New York, 1975, p. 170, Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated. C. Finch, Norman Rockwell, 332 Magazine Covers, New York, 1979, p. 227, illustrated. L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. 1, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, pp. 120-21, no. C321, Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated.
Norman Rockwell's covers for the Saturday Evening Post brought his illustrations of idealized small-town life and whimsical, everyday concerns into the homes of thousands Americans during the years between 1916 and 1963. Known for his supremely realistic portraits and incredible attention to detail, Rockwell was a master at capturing each of his subject's expressions, from the most radiant of youths to those slightly more wrinkled with age, making each charming character worthy of attention no matter the scene. Rockwell considered the Saturday Evening Post to be "the greatest show window in America" and the artist was undoubtedly its' leading dresser during some of its most vital decades.
In Girl Choosing Hat, a young girl dressed up in a triple-tiered gown with rows of brightly colored silk studies herself in front of a mirror while an encouraging milliner or her grandmother looks on. Yet despite her elaborate, richly hued finery, and lightly rouged cheeks, the girl seems anxious over the task at hand which hat to choose? The springtime palate of her dress, with its bodice of pink, green ribbons over billowing sleeves of chiffon and crisscrossed patterned skirt is a remarkable example of Rockwell's talents, not only as an illustrator, but as a draftsman concerned with every fold and crease as it plays against the stark white background of the cover. Either on her way to a costume party the black Harlequinesque mask hanging delicately from the mirror's post suggests an evening of romance and intrigue or reminiscing over parties past, the young girl's slightly dejected gaze is obvious even in her delicate profile, a hallmark of Rockwell's outstanding execution of facial expressions.
The sewing box sitting atop a cushion at her feet suggests that this has been a most tedious undertaking; each hem line, drop of fabric and cut of lace adorning her straw bonnet appears handcrafted for her figure and profile perhaps evidence that the dress once belonged to her older companion. One can sense the matron figure's tender reassurances to the girl as she presents her with a second choice of bonnet this one velvet and adorned with flowers able to appreciate the flush and excitement of youth where the girl can only feel worry and expectation, and perhaps a touch of remorse over a romance gone by. Decidedly overwhelmed by her own ensemble for what is obviously a very important occasion, or unwilling to choose something new in its place, the young girl remains a vision in Rockwell's riot of color which only adds to the subtle drama of the tableau.
Girl Choosing Hat, which was the cover for the January 31, 1931 edition of the Saturday Evening Post, was executed during the start of what would be considered Rockwell's most fruitful years at the magazine, from the early 1930s and into the 1940s. Rockwell's expert handling of the most ordinary subjects a girl choosing a hat, the anticipation of a party or ball to the most troublesome is what allows him to remain one of the most singular voices in twentieth century American art. Surpassing his title as merely an illustrator, Rockwell captured the human experience from its smaller, more intimate moments to its greatest victories.