Norman Rockwell: Civil Rights and Motherhood

News Story

This week The Norman Rockwell Museum released a powerful letter from the Museum Director/CEO, Laurie Norton Moffat, titled 'Hope in the Time of Despair'. The letter invites readers to join in a "conversation with the community on race and healing" with a virtual Four Freedoms Forum on 11th June 2020.

"Please come together to share your thoughts, fears, frustration, ideas, and hope. Together we move forward."

The letter is accompanied by a virtual exhibition titled, Norman Rockwell in the Age of the Civil Rights Movement. 

It is the museum's hope that by observing Rockwell's artworks, we can "evolve into a more compassionate culture" as we are led to confront the harshest realities of our uneven society. 

"Who but someone who spent sixty-four years winning our hearts by reminding us of who we are could better advise us on treating others as we would like to be treated."


Rockwell has been popular in the Art-News stands this week thanks to one of his most famous artworks, scheduled to make its first auction appearance next month.

On 1 Juy 2020, Heritage Auctions (Dallas Texas) will feature Rockwell's most iconic and best-known Literary Digest cover, Mother Tucking Children into Bed, at their latest online American Art Auction, with a starting bid of $900,000. It is expected to reach between $1.8 - $2.4 million.

Few images hold the same sense of nostalgia in the American consciousness than that of this mother tucking her little children into bed at night. Rockwell was a virtuoso, celebrated for his ability to capture the essence of American culture. This artwork depicts his vision of a more innocent time in American history, as well as a personal dream for his own future. 

Rockwell was a prolific cover illustrator. Between 1918 and 1923, The Literary Digest featured Rockwell artwork on its cover forty-seven times.

This painting was gifted by the artist in 1921 to Rudolph E. Leppert, famed Literary Digest editor, and has remained in the family to this day. His granddaughter, Elizabeth F L Gerteiny, speaks of what this painting has meant to her family:

From the time I was born until I had my own children, I woke up every morning with Norman Rockwell's "Mother Tucking Children Into Bed" -- also known as "Mother's Little Angels"-- on the wall facing my bed. Later, it was my younger daughter's turn to wake up each morning facing it in her bedroom; we all grew up with the feeling that Norman Rockwell was a member of our family.

The painting was commissioned in 1920 by my grandfather, Rudolph Edward Leppert Sr., the Art Editor of the Literary Digest, for the cover of its January 29, 1921 issue. He and Rockwell were good friends and fellow painters. 

Grandpa was among the first to recognize Rockwell's talent. He encouraged the younger painter to persevere in his art, sponsoring him and commissioning him to illustrate many Literary Digest covers, as well as many covers of the Saturday Evening Post. Their collaboration and friendship led them to exchange paintings, and Rockwell often used members of both our families as models in his work.

For years, a digital copy of "Mother Tucking Children Into Bed" was used as a centerpiece on Mother's Day at the Rockwell Museum. The painting was Rockwell's expression of his intense wish to have children of his own with his wife Irene, the model of the beautiful mother in it -- a wish that sadly remained just that. It was this that may have, according to my mother, Mary Jack Folsom Leppert, contributed to their divorce in January 1930, and a depression Rockwell subsequently suffered.

"Mother Tucking Children Into Bed," the expression of his most ardent wish, hung on a wall of Rockwell's atelier; after he and Irene divorced, he offered it to my grandfather, who gave it to his son, Rudolph Edward Leppert Jr., my father, and it remained in our family ever since.</

NEW! The Book Collector Podcasts

Articles from our Archive brought to life in audio - listen now via

Subscribe    -    Current Issue    -    Podcasts

Flower Icon