Critical Essay 4: Norman Rockwell’s “Rosie the Riveter”

I had always heard about “Rosie the Riveter” in American history classes but as most things you here from history, they do not have a large impact on someone at first, especially a simple advertisement. That is what I had thought it was for the longest of times, I did not even know it was a painting. Things like that seem to get lost in all the grades and tests of American history, especially in high school.



“Rosie the Riveter” by Norman Rockwell is an oil painting on canvas, measuring 52 inches by 4o inches. Rockwell completed the painting in 1943.

Because I did not know that this was a painting at first, when I first saw it at the Crystal Bridges Museum of Art I was very surprised at how large it was. Being almost 5 feet tall, it is an intimidating piece of work. Not only is it a large piece, it a very skillfully crafted work that displays a very large level of realism. It also illustrates many elements of art that are necessary for becoming famous. It has a good since of direction of movement throughout the painting. We can follow the direction of her eyes that leads us to her knee/rivet gun which then follows the pipe that lines up close to the waving of the red flag that can be followed back up to the top of the painting. Being painted in some way as an advertisement, but more as a statement, putting “Rosie” in the middle makes it the most effective for creating a message that Rockwell was trying to display.

That message was the idea of the American spirit and strength, especially for women. At the time, World War II was in full swing for the US. As many men were going ever seas to fight, the women left behind were forced to take their places on the assembly lines. This was Rockwell’s inspiration. The women fighting the war back home were part of the driving force that helped win the war. Rockwell wanted to create the image that the women created for themselves. When he was making the piece, he has a tiny 19 year old girl model for him. In stark contrast to the actual piece, the one in the painting is much larger and stronger than the actual one. Rockwell was creating the image of empowered, strong women that were making a difference. After he published the painting, the number of women volunteers to work in the factories rose to new heights. When a painting can make a difference in the result of a world war, it has accomplished more than its purpose.

Going and seeing this painting gave a strong sense of nationalism and pride. As long as their are people like Norman Rockwell to help us remember our history, how can we forget our past. Art, without a doubt, has a large impact on everyones’ history and future.