Karsh Signature

Yousuf Karsh, master photographer of the 20th century

Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell, 1958

Karsh photographed the celebrated American artist Norman Rockwell on this day, July 25, in 1958, for an Eastman Kodak advertisement – Rockwell is holding a Kodak Retina camera. This is the portrait that ran in the subsequent ad campaign.

Karsh had photographed Rockwell two years earlier, and wrote about their meeting:

He was enthusiastic in 1956 on hearing that I wished to photograph him and sent a car from Stockbridge, Massachusetts, to fetch me from New York. On reaching his studio, I found a note on the door telling me: “Please come in and make yourself at home. I will be back at one.” My host arrived shortly afterwards, took me to lunch with some of his friends, and then we got down to work.

Mr. Rockwell seemed intensely interested in my methods, and I soon realized that photography is an essential ingredient of his own art. He told me he employed a regular photographer who, upon his instructions, took pictures of suitable candidates for his paintings. These pictures, blown up to the right size, are pasted over one another or placed in juxtaposition until the painter has exactly the joint effect he wants – a kind of collective model, I suppose. The characters distilled by his brush follow no particular tradition, he told me, but only “human interest” and a very cheerful realism. The artist should be an entertainer, not a crusader… I asked him if technique could be exalted over integrity. “Technique,” he retorted, “is a matter of self-expression. If integrity goes, technique alone cannot save it.”

See two portraits from the 1956 sitting.