The Original Photograph Reference For Norman Rockwell's 'The Runaway' 1958 (Colorized)

January 31, 2021

Rockwell Would Famously Use His Own Photography For His Paintings

At first glance, you may think you are looking at one of Norman Rockwell’s most famous paintings, “The Runaway,” but look again. This image is actually a colorized version of the original black and white photograph that served as the inspiration for Rockwell’s work. 

Rockwell's beloved work is both nostalgic and a celebration of an era gone by when children could walk the streets without fear, even a "runaway" wouldn't have to worry about going too far without guidance from a few helpful citizens. This photo sums up Rockwell's personal brand of Americana so well. The black and white version of this photo is just that, a photo. Looking at it in color does more than show us a reference shot. It takes us back to a simpler time.

source: laiz kuczynski

In fact, did you know that Rockwell was an accomplished photographer? Photography played a key part in his artistic process. Rockwell’s paintings, many of which graced the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, were like a snapshot of American life. But as we will learn, Rockwell carefully staged the photograph of “The Runaway” and his other works that became treasured American favorites. 

Norman Rockwell’s Slice of Americana


Beginning in 1916, the then-twenty-year-old New England artist, Norman Rockwell started a 47-year relationship with The Saturday Evening Post, one of the most popular and iconic magazines of the 1900s. By the end of his time with The Post, he had painted 321 paintings for its cover. Rockwell’s paintings were so popular because they showcased the realities of life. The faces he painted and the scenes he depicted were so lifelike that his fans could relate to them. As this colorized photograph shows, Rockwell’s paintings were so lifelike because he based them on photographs he took.