Painting for Ladies' Home Journal story illustration, published July 1929.
Checkers, originally painted in 1928, illustrates a story by Courtney Riley Cooper about a circus clown named Pokey Joe who feels he's no longer funny. His circus pals decide to lift his spirits and renew his confidence by letting him win a high-stakes game of checkers-the only thing he really cares about. The subject of circus characters is fertile ground for Rockwell to create dimensional characters in exotic costumes. The drama and flair of the circus world are expressed through the richness of his colors and in a painterly style found most often in Rockwell's earlier work of the 1920s and 1930s. It is a true illustration in the sense that it describes the text of a story and adds to our enjoyment and appreciation of the story through its visual richness. Circus life and performers are favored themes in Rockwell's repertoire; his childhood experience of going to the circus and his experience of being around performers at the Metropolitan Opera during his art student days are fondly recalled through these images.