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This is my favorite Rockwell Saturday Evening Post cover. It’s important to know that it was published during WWII. The soldier nuzzling with his sweetie is on leave, perhaps going back to hell soon — which adds a poignant extra dimension to the wistful gaze of the little girl trying to process the romantic embrace.

One’s eye goes first to the little girl’s face, because it’s the only face clearly visible and thus dominates the composition, but her red coat is echoed in the red ticket stub on the back of the seat in the foreground and the red lining of the soldier’s coat hanging by the window, drawing our eye schematically towards what the girl is looking at.

Below is one of the photographs Rockwell had taken on which he based his painting:

Rockwell “directed” his images much as a film director might — the main structure of his dramatic compositions was created for a camera with the narrative content firmly in mind, but then “art-directed” and cast with extras for the final scene, rendered in color and “lit” with the brush and paint for maximum visual impact.  The result is a kind of über-photograph, realistic as a movie image on one level but with a heightened magical appeal that transcends the merely photographic, which can also be said of images from most of the films created in the golden age of Hollywood’s studio era.