Appearing on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on January 17, 1920, Little Boy Writing Letter exemplifies the charm, humor and nostalgia that imbues Rockwell’s best and most beloved images. The scene depicts a young, disheveled boy with a furrowed brow furiously writing a love letter to his “sweetheart.” The boy’s level of focus is palpable as he strives to compose the perfect letter, discarding the various failed notes on the ground. His loyal dog rests his head on the boy’s knee as if to offer his encouragement. The work features one of Rockwell’s favorite models, Eddy Carson, who posed for him on multiple occasions. In a letter to Dr. H.L. Houghton, the first owner of Little Boy Writing Letter, the artist wrote, “There is a real original for the boy and I often use him. His name is Eddy Carlson and he is a fine little model. You might be glad to know that I always use real persons for every picture I paint. The idea of the red headed boy picture was suggested to me one day when one of the little boys I use for a model, was in my studio trying to write a letter to his girl. He presented much the same picture as the one I painted, only I made it a country boy with country surroundings.”
Painted during the early period of Rockwell’s career, Little Boy Writing Letter demonstrates the more expressive and painterly manner of execution that characterizes his works from the 1920s and early 1930s, a quality Rockwell left behind as—encouraged by a younger generation of artist and illustrators—he incorporated photography into his technical process. Even without the use of photography, Rockwell’s ability to achieve near perfect realism is on full display here with the myriad of rich textures he captures in elements such as the dog’s fur and boy’s red corduroy jacket. Ultimately, these delightful details all serve to support the artist’s intended narrative, effortlessly capturing the notion of young love.
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