Norman Rockwell, ‘ Blackstone Cigars’, ca. 1921,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Norman Rockwell, ‘ Blackstone Cigars’, ca. 1921,  M.S. Rau Antiques
Norman Rockwell, ‘ Blackstone Cigars’, ca. 1921,  M.S. Rau Antiques

A charming relic of a bygone era, this rare oil is the work of the inimitable American illustrator, Norman Rockwell. The iconic artist’s ability to render the details and nuances of everyday life is on full display in this original advertisement, which features a businessman enjoying a Blackstone cigar while dictating to his secretary. Executed by Rockwell in 1921, the work was a special commission for a billboard campaign by the American cigar manufacturer Waitt & Bond. They were so pleased with the work that the company commissioned two additional billboard designs from Rockwell, a hunting scene in 1922 and a fishing scene in 1923.

Rockwell's ability to capture the character of the nation was prized not only by magazine art editors but also by advertisers. Nearly all major companies of the day called upon Rockwell for his outstanding compositions, including Jell-O, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Ford, Post Cereals, and the U.S. Army, while his works continued to grace the covers of publications such as Literary Digest, Life, Country Gentleman, Look and the iconic Saturday Evening Post. Taken together, his many paintings capture the essence of the American spirit. “I paint life as I would like it to be,” Rockwell once said. Nostalgic and idealistic, his paintings evoke the hopes and aspirations of the entire nation. As filmmaker Steven Spielberg once said, “Rockwell painted the American dream – better than anyone.”

Norman Rockwell led a very long and incredibly successful career as an artist. His first commission was painted when he was only 16 years old, and his irresistible paintings of American life made him the foremost American illustrator of the 20th century. While history was in the making all around him, Rockwell chose to fill his canvases with the small details and nuances of ordinary people in everyday life. His distinguished career earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.

Circa 1921

About Norman Rockwell

Few artists are as closely tied to the American identity as Norman Rockwell—though the idealistic images of happy families, playful school children, and humble towns he created during his 47-year career at the Saturday Evening Post were nostalgic even in their day. “The view of life I communicate in my pictures excludes the sordid and ugly,” the artist said. “I paint life as I would like it to be.” To create these detailed slices of life, Rockwell created meticulously planned photographic studies. After leaving the Post in the 1960s, his paintings took a more political turn, and he spent the last decade of his life creating works that dealt with issues such as civil rights and the fight against poverty.

American, 1894-1978, New York, New York, based in Stockbridge, Massachusetts