Norman Rockwell
The Problem We All Live With, 1964
oil on canvas
36 x 58 in.

Today's Portrait Monday is brought to you by Norman Rockwell, the American civil rights movement, and Winsor Gallery's Sunshine Frere.

Moved by the span of American life, Norman Rockwell's illustrative paintings have entered the canon of both art history and popular culture, persisting beyond the political moment of their making to become true visual/historical icons. Though some of Rockwell's best known works are of the proud and patriotic kind,  The Problem We All Live With (1964) captures a different sort of moment in American history. At once, we can view the triumph of the civil rights movement and the undercurrent of race-based hatred that ran through America at the time of the painting's completion.

The young girl walking, cooly and with her head held high, to a newly de-segregated school is Ruby Bridges, who endured the tumult of this cultural change -- and weathered the storm of those still opposed to it -- as the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. She is depicted here flanked by four army marshals, who were assigned to protect her on this iconic walk.

The gravity of this painting has not been lost on U.S. President Obama, who decided to hang the painting in the White House in July 2011 at the suggestion of Ms. Bridges herself. After the painting's installation outside of the Oval Office, Obama said to Ms. Bridges, “I think it is fair to say that if it hadn’t been for you guys, I might not be here and we might not be looking at this together.”

For more information about Norman Rockwell, you can visit his page on the Norman Rockwell Museum's website, and The Washington Post covered the story on Obama's decision to hang the painting in the White House last July.