Norman Rockwell’s paintings for the Boy Scouts of America evoked a sense of pride, honor, and love in millions of viewers. Thirty-three years after Rockwell painted his last Boy Scouts image, his talent and commitment to the organization are featured in the book, Norman Rockwell’s Boy Scouts of America.
The interesting twist in this collection is the other author and collaborator of this book. Jeff Csatari ’83 helped his father Joseph, Rockwell’s former artistic director, with the creation of the book.
“I’ve had connection to the Boy Scouts through my father and through my own career,” noted Jeff. Early in his extensive history with the magazine industry, Jeff worked as the features editor for Boys’ Life magazine and continued to freelance for them at his current position at Men’s Health magazine. The editors of Boys’ Life eventually approached Jeff and asked him to help write the book with his father.
Rockwell was named the art director for Boys’ Life magazine in 1912 and was commissioned as the Boy Scouts official artist. Every year, Rockwell would paint one picture for the scouts that would appear in their annual calendars, the Saturday Evening Post, and other media across the country.
From 1968 until Rockwell’s retirement in 1976, Jeff’s father served as Rockwell’s artistic director. The older Csatari came up with the idea for the annual Boy Scouts painting, and then guided Rockwell through the creation of the painting. Jeff recalled, “I kind of lived those eight years of my dad’s close relationship with Rockwell.… I went on a lot of photo shoots with my dad.” He recounted one particularly interesting memory from the time he spent with his father and Rockwell in the studio.
In 1971, Rockwell needed a model for a den mother and asked the older Joseph for pictures of models, from which he could choose his subject. Joseph threw in snapshot of Jeff’s mother, and Rockwell eventually hired her. “You could imagine the surprise on Rockwell’s face when my dad introduced the model as his wife,” Jeff said with a hearty chuckle.
When Rockwell retired, Joseph became the official Boy Scouts artist, and the unofficial tradition of using family members as models continues today. In 1985, Jeff and his wife posed for a 75th anniversary painting, and the image eventually was printed on the cover of the Boy Scouts handbook.
Even though he is proud about his recent bestselling book, The Belly Off! Diet, Jeff said this collection of images by Rockwell and his father, with captions authored by Jeff himself, holds a special place in his life and heart. He added that it is a full encapsulation of his childhood and familial memories, the effort in his career, and his connection to artistic history.