Appearing on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on June 4, 1939, when commercial air travel was becoming more widespread, First Flight captures the quintessentially American spirit of adventure. Rockwell depicts an older woman sitting rigidly upright in her seat, taking in all of the wonders of her first airplane voyage. She gazes intently out of the window and meticulously follows the plane’s route on a detailed map that is spread out on her lap atop a small suitcase. Rockwell does not explicitly identify the woman or the purpose of her journey. Instead, she represents the average American who is venturing from home and experiencing air travel for the first time. As Donald Stoltz explains, "“By this time Rockwell was a seasoned traveler and flying was not a new experience to him, but the always shared the anxiety and excitement of the lady on this Post cover” (Norman Rockwell and 'The Saturday Evening Post:' The Middle Years, New York, 1976, p. 143).
Executed during the twenty-third year of his relationship with The Saturday Evening Post, First Flight highlights Rockwell’s technical precision and masterful dratmanship. He renders each component of the composition – from the flight map to the woman’s lace collar–with remarkable detail. Rockwell’s characteristic ability to capture emotion is simultaneously demonstrated in his rendering of the woman’s facial expression and posture. First Flight not only displays Rockwell’s sentimental sense of humor but also illustrates his quintessentially American aesthetic.
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