The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Book Inscribed by Norman Rockwell

Posted on Mon, 06/03/2024 - 10:54

On view in June 2024.

To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the founding of The Walt Disney Company, The Walt Disney Family Museum is showcasing objects from the museum’s collection that highlight important moments in Walt’s life and career. These objects, which include recent acquisitions and fragile materials that have never been publicly displayed, will rotate periodically throughout the year.

Illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) and Walt Disney maintained a friendship and correspondence for many years.

In 1941, Rockwell visited the Disney Studio for lunch with Walt and artist Clyde Forsyth, a mutual acquaintance. Later that year, Walt commissioned Rockwell to compose portraits of his daughters Diane and Sharon, facsimiles of which are on display here in the Awards Lobby. Bill Cottrell, Walt’s brother-in-law, recalled a meeting between the two at Rockwell’s studio in Vermont: during a trip to New England, “Walt ended up spending a couple of hours with Rockwell. We just dropped in on him. It was nothing formal. He was mowing the grass when we drove up.”

In 1943, Rockwell gave Walt an oil painting titled Girl Reading the Post, which had been featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post two years prior. Like Walt, Rockwell’s art was widely known to Americans, in large part because of his longtime association with the Post, for which he composed over 320 cover illustrations between 1916 and 1963. Girl Reading the Post hung in Walt’s office along with a pair of oil pastel portraits of his daughters, Diane and Sharon, also by Rockwell. In a letter to Rockwell thanking him for the painting, Walt described the scene at the studio upon its arrival: “My entire staff have been traipsing up to my office to look at it. I know you would be delighted if you could see how minutely they inspect it. To all of them, you are some sort of god.” The respect was mutual—this 1935 edition of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, which features eight oil painting illustrations by Rockwell, is inscribed: “To Walt Disney, with sincere respect for his great art, Norman Rockwell.”

Walt and Rockwell’s lives overlapped in other ways, too. Both were recipients of the Boy Scouts of America’s Silver Buffalo Award, Rockwell in 1938 and Walt in 1946.  Walt himself was featured on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1956, though Rockwell did not compose the cover, which was illustrated by former Disney studio artist Gustaf Tenggren. And when Rockwell visited Southern California in 1961, he visited Disneyland. While Walt was not available as a guide, he did write to Rockwell, saying, “It was nice hearing from you and to know that you enjoyed your visit to Disneyland. So far as the Park goes, it’s worth a trip about every other year because, then, you always see new attractions.”