NORMAN ROCKWELL AMERICANA | THE TATTOOOIST, CIRCA 1944

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The Tattooist, ca, 1944 — Norman Rockwell.

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Simply no one captures the idealism and essence of vintage Americana like Norman Rockwell.  You can generously apply all the cliche descriptors enthusiastically, and without remorse — EPIC, ICONIC, etc. — because never have they been more appropriate.  1942’s “The Tattooist” above has long been one of my favorite Rockwell works– so I thought I’d share some of the history behind it, via the Tattoo Archive

Norman Rockwell worked from various staged photographs while painting The Tattooist, which was used as The Saturday Evening Post cover on the March 4, 1944 issue.  In Fact, Rockwell used photographs as an aid in doing most of his paintings.  Rockwell had many willing participants in his town of Arlington, Vermont.  For the actual tattooist, he used one of his fellow illustrators from the Saturday Evening Post, and a neighbor, Clarence Decker, as the sailor.  This was Schaeffer’s only appearance as a central figure in a Rockwell illustration.  Decker was ‘Master of the Grange’ in Arlington, and shows up in quite a few other Rockwell illustrations.  For The Tattooist, Rockwell borrowed a tattoo machine from the Bowery tattooist Al Neville.  Rockwell obviously consulted with Al Neville, along with former sailors to insure the accuracy in his painting The Tattooist.

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Staged photo of Clarence Decker (left) used by Norman Rockwell for 1944’s The Tattooist. Via

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The Tattoo Archive received an email from Ross Mosher, who is the great, great nephew of Clarence Decker, the sailor model for The Tattooist, which read–

“Clarence didn’t have a single tattoo in real life.  Also the last name on his arm is Betty– that’s because my great, great aunt Belle told Norman that if he put her name in the painting, she wouldn’t speak to him ever again.  So Norman crossed the L’s and added a Y.”

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