The Saturday Evening Post, September 15, 1945, illustrated in color on the cover
Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, New York, 1970, no.42, illustrated
Christopher Finch, Norman Rockwell's America, New York, 1975, no.249, p.201, illustrated in color (as On Leave)
Laurie Norton Moffat, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, no.C420, p.161, illustrated
Painted in 1945.
PROCEEDS TO BENEFIT THE PEROT FOUNDATION
Norman Rockwell painted Home on Leave in 1945 for the September 15υth cover of the Saturday Evening Post one month after the official end of World War II. The country was at last celebrating peace, the years of uncertainty and turmoil seemingly behind it. In Home on Leave Rockwell captures the nation?s collective relief in an idyllic scene of a young sailor in uniform napping peacefully in a hammock under a tree, safe and sound. In 1945 Rockwell completed four covers for the Saturday Evening Post on the subject of the American soldier?s return home: The Homecoming, May 26, Home on Leave (Sailor in Hammock), September 15, Homecoming Marine, October 13 and Back to Civvies (Man in Outgrown Clothes), December 15. The present painting, second in the series, was described in its Post issue as follows: ?A lot of returned sailors will soon be doing the kind of sack duty shown in Norman Rockwell?s cover, gladly trading all the palm trees in the Pacific for the shade of one apple tree in their own yard at home. Just to show you how artist?s work, however, let?s disassemble this picture, now [that] it?s finished. The sailor goes back to the Navy--Rockwell borrowed him from Williams College. The sailor?s blouse goes back to a shipmate--he borrowed that because his own had none of that fleet salad on the chest. Rockwell borrowed the dog from his son Tommy, borrowed the hammock from Mrs. Robert Smith, a neighbor. The house that shows is neither Rockwell?s nor the sailor?s; it belongs to another neighbor, ?Vic? Yalo. The shoes were Rockwell?s very own. He didn?t have any cigarettes at the moment, and couldn?t borrow any from the sailor, so the cigarettes are painted from memory? (Editor?s note, Saturday Evening Post, 1945).
Rockwell chronicled the current of American life during the World War II years more thoroughly than any other American artist through illustrations in posters, calendars and ads depicting patriotic, sometimes humorous, often tender scenes of ordinary civilians doing their part in the war effort. Ultimately he painted twenty-five of the thirty-three covers created for the Post during the war. In 1942 when the graphics of the Post changed to make the background of the cover more interesting and detailed, Rockwell began to pay particular attention to the scene around his subjects, and started to use a camera more frequently to record detail. The photographs became great sources of visual information fueling the artist?s already formidable skill as a storyteller. In the study Rockwell prepared for Home on Leave he painted over a photograph of the scene, a working method he employed to finely tune the details of the more developed compositions. ?The war period saw the opening of the era in which a detailed setting became the norm in Rockwell?s work. This was, creatively, an extremely fertile period; it marked the birth of Rockwell?s mature idiom? (Christopher Finch, Norman Rockwell?s America, New York, 1975, p.19). In Home on Leave, Rockwell celebrates America?s newfound peace, and with it the security and comfort of home. In this quintessential backyard setting a loyal dog relaxes on his master?s lap, the edge of a whitewashed porch anchored in the distance. Bright sunlight filters through the leaves of the tree, and an open pack of cigarettes, the classic accessory of the American sailor, sits tucked into a pair of well-worn shoes. Rockwell went to Williams College in search of the right model to sit for Home on Leave and spotted Leo Maguire on campus. According to Lorraine Lauzon, a childhood friend of Maguire, Leo was a student from Lynne, Massachusetts who had enrolled in the Navy immediately following high school. When the Post cover was published, Leo Maguire became a local celebrity. Rockwell?s magazine covers from the post-war era are among his best-known and critically appreciated works. Finch writes, ?the period from the mid-forties until the late fifties was perhaps Rockwell?s time of greatest achievement? (Norman Rockwell?s America, New York, 1975, p.31).