Typical of Rockwell's work, The Golfer is a scene representative of its era. The game of golf, which had been introduced in the United States in the 1890s, had just begun to gain traction among middle-class Americans at the time of this painting's creation. Rockwell had composed another scene just a few years prior on the subject of a golfer, presenting a businessman sneaking out of his office early with his golf bag in tow.
It is likely that George Horace Lorimer, then editor of the Saturday Evening Post, approved a similar scene from the artist of a golfer on the green. Unfortunately for Rockwell, upon seeing his golfer, visibly frustrated and presumably cursing, Lorimer rejected it as a Post cover. Though an uncommon occurrence, this was not unheard of; as Rockwell once explained, “He never fidgeted over a decision or told me to leave the cover so that he could decide later whether or not to accept it. The first glance, its first impact was his criterion.” Seemingly quite tame and comical by today's standards, the work is a wonderful snapshot of a bygone age.
Rockwell tapped into the nostalgia of the American people and his ability to create visual stories that expressed the desires of a nation helped to clarify and, in a sense, create that nation's vision. While history was in the making all around him, Rockwell chose to fill his canvases with the small details and nuances of ordinary people in everyday life. Taken together, his many paintings capture the essence of the American spirit.
“I paint life as I would like it to be,” Rockwell once said. Mythical, idealistic, and innocent, his paintings evoke a longing for a time and place that existed in his rich imagination and in the hopes and aspirations of the nation.
This work is pictured in In Search of Norman Rockwell's America by K. Rivoli.