On display at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas.
Norman Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post cover featuring Rosie the Riveter.
Norman Rockwell’s image of “Rosie the Riveter” received mass distribution on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on Memorial Day, May 29, 1943. Rockwell’s illustration features a brawny woman taking her lunch break with a rivet gun on her lap and beneath her Penny loafer a copy of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf. Her lunch pail reads “Rosie”; viewers quickly recognized this to be “Rosie the Riveter” from the familiar song. Rockwell, America’s best-known popular illustrator of the day, posed his model to match the Sistine Chapel ceiling image of the prophet Isaiah, painted by Michelangelo in 1509. Rockwell’s model was a Vermont resident, 19-year-old Mary Doyle who was a telephone operator near where Rockwell lived, not a riveter. Rockwell painted his “Rosie” as a larger woman than his model, and he later phoned to apologize. The Post‘s cover image proved hugely popular, and the magazine loaned it to the U.S. Treasury Department for the duration of the war, for use in war bond drives.
After the war the Rockwell “Rosie” was seen less and less because of a general policy of vigorous copyright protection by the Rockwell estate. In 2002, the original painting sold at Sotheby’s for nearly $5 million. In June 2009 the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas acquired Norman Rockwell’s iconic Rosie the Riveter painting for its permanent collection from a private collector.
In late 1942, Doyle posed twice for Rockwell’s photographer, Gene Pelham, as Rockwell preferred to work from still images rather than live models. The first photo was not suitable because she wore a blouse rather than a blue work shirt. In total, she was paid $10 for her modeling work. In 1949 she married Robert J. Keefe to become Mary Doyle Keefe. The Keefes were invited and present in 2002 when the Rockwell painting was sold at Sotheby’s.
Sotheby’s auctioned the painting to an unnamed buyer on May 22, 2002, for $4.96 million, according to its Web site.