At the outset of his career, Norman Rockwell was not the most likely candidate for long-term celebrity; he was just one of many skillful illustrators working within the conventions of the day. But there was something tenacious about his vision, and something uncanny about his access to the wellsprings of public taste. Although technically he was an academic painter, he had the eye of a photographer and, as he became a mature artist, he used this eye to give us a picture of America that was familiar-astonishingly so-and at the same time unique. [via]
It seems familiar because it was everyone's dream of America; and it was unique because only Rockwell managed to bring it to life with such authority. This was, perhaps, an America that never existed, but it was an America the public wanted to exist. And Rockwell put it together from elements that were there for everyone to see.
Rockwell helped preserve American myths, but, more than that, he recreated them and made them palatable for new generations. His function was to reassure people, to remind them of old values in times of rapid change.