From the Field

Norman Rockwell at the United Nations

August 13, 2015

In his painting Golden Rule, Norman Rockwell “expressed what I believe to be his core belief that guided his art…that we are one people sharing one world in common humanity,”  says Norman Rockwell Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt. A large mosaic version of Golden Rule is installed at the United Nations, where “at virtually any hour – you will find tourists, delegates and diplomats marveling before it,” according to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Now, Rockwell’s rarely exhibited drawing United Nations, a precursor to Golden Rule, is also on view at the UN in an exhibition organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum.

Mosaic copy of Norman Rockwell's Golden Rule, at the United Nations in New York. Image courtesy of United Nations Photo on Flickr


This exhibition titled, We The Peoples: Norman Rockwell’s United Nations also features a collection of the artist’s series of Peace Corps paintings, civil rights era illustrations, and reference photographs documenting his 1953 visit to the then newly-formed United Nations Headquarters.

According to Norton Moffatt, “In 1952 [Rockwell] was moved to create a signature image to represent the United Nations, the young organization that had established in 1945 in a signing ceremony in San Francisco its founding charter that began, ‘We the Peoples.’…To communicate this big idea, Rockwell chose to portray the founding 51 nations, through 51 figures reflective of diverse cultures, religions, races and ethnicities, to represent the aspirational goals of the young organization.”


Norman Rockwell Museum Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt giving United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon a tour of the exhibition We the Peoples: Norman Rockwell’s United Nations at the United Nations Headquarters. © 2015 Norman Rockwell Museum


Norton Moffatt says that it’s unknown why Rockwell never finished United Nations, but she says that it’s unfinished state is perhaps “a fitting metaphor for the unfinished aspirational work of the United Nations.”

 “I often walk by [the Golden Rule mosaic] and see people as diverse as the painting itself – standing in awe at its moving image of humanity and its transcendent message of compassion and community that is at the heart of all world religions.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon remarked at the exhibition’s opening.

“I think it is exceptional that this artist – so anchored in American society – was quite literally drawn to send the message:  we belong to the world,” the Secretary-General said.

We The Peoples: Norman Rockwell’s United Nations is free and open to the public. The exhibition is on view at the UN through September 15, 2015. Learn more about the exhibition as well as Rockwell’s relationship with the UN at the exhibition’s website.


Top image: United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, Norman Rockwell Museum Director and CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt, Ruby Bridges, United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, and United Nations Foundation President and CEO Kathy Calvin stand for a photo next to the exhibition banner for We the Peoples: Norman Rockwell’s United Nations. © 2015 Norman Rockwell Museum