Norman Rockwell painted Christmas in the Heart as an illustration for Rachel Field's story of the same title which appeared in the January 1941 issue of American Magazine. The title is a reference to a popular nineteenth century quote by writer W.T. Ellis, "It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air" and pays homage to Ebeneezer Scrooge's famous final repent in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, "I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year."
Norman Rockwell's Christmas in the Heart depicts two little girls bundled up in their scarves and hats on a cold winter's night during the holiday season waiting in a doorway to deliver a basket. The girls' large, earnest eyes are turned upward at the unknown recipient of their yuletide gift whose vantage point is our own, looking down at them from inside the house. Rockwell's illustration was published in American Magazine with the following text printed over the dark night background: "We are welcomed across the threshold of a different world. 'Merry Christmas! God Jul!' " The children's good wishes are spoken in Norwegian ("God Jul" translates to "Merry Christmas") implying their foreign-born heritage. This story was published during the winter of 1941 when America was engaged in war overseas. A great patriot, much of Rockwell's wartime work reflects humor, but in Christmas in the Heart Rockwell paints a sincere message for the holiday season of kindness and compassion for all.
The Rockwell family moved to Arlington, Vermont in 1939. According to letters from the owner of Christmas in the Heart, Rockwell donated this painting as a raffle prize to help raise money for the Arlington Community Club and Martha Canfield Library in Arlington. The winning raffle ticket was purchased for twenty-five cents at the Community Club's fundraiser and street fair in 1942. When Rockwell's Arlington studio burned down in 1943 many original paintings, drawing and notes were destroyed in the fire but Rockwell's generosity had inadvertently insured that Christmas in the Heart survived. It hung in the home of the raffle winner's family who still own it today. Aside from being exhibited in the Community Club in Arlington, Christmas in the Heart has never before been on public view.
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