Samson by Norman Rockwell


In 1948-1949, Director Cecil B. Demille approached Norman Rockwell and The Famous Artist's School to assist in the marketing of a new motion picture titled Samson & Delilah starring Victor Mature and Hedy Lamarr. Each artist at the school chose a scene to depict and Rockwell chose the climax of the film as the biblical Samson pulls down the pillars of the temple, killing himself, Delilah and the Philistines who conspired against Samson.

This study in charcoal was given to the actor, Victor Mature by the artist and was passed on to Mature's family where it was acquired at auction by Anthony's. The work was discovered in a cardboard tube by the stepson of the actor, who originally posed for Norman Rockwell for the work. The work was in three pieces, taped on the reverse. The tape had become brittle. And, it was determined by conservators that the best solution would be to lay the three works, as originally configured, on linen. The absence of foxing and tears suggest that the work has remained in the tube since it was originally put in the tube, perhaps by Rockwell himself. The idea that it has not been removed and displayed is further suggested by the lack of yellowing in the paper caused by exposure to light. The drawing itself is well preserved, without smudging.

The commission coincided with the founding of the Famous Artist School, a new educational effort by twelve professional artists to promote arts education by correspondence. Advertisements for the courses were promoted heavily in national publications. Rockwell was perhaps the most promiment of the twelve, and his image was featured heavily in promotional materials. These promotional images featured Rockwell working at his easel on Samson (1948), sending an important message about the kind of education students would receive.

By 1948, Rockwell had a well-established, national reputation as a painter of genre scenes for magazines. Until recently, this meant that Rockwell was not considered a fine artist; but, rather, as an illustrator. Samson represented a serious aspirational break from Rockwell’s ouevre; an attempt to establish himself as a history painter, in the academic sense.

Framed dimensions: 85 x 67 in.

Signed Lower Left

Charcoal, Pastel, & Graphite on Paper laid down on Linen