December 5, 2013

Norman Rockwell painting fetches $46 million

The sale is a record for the Saturday Evening Post artist and for American artwork sold at auction.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — A Norman Rockwell painting titled “Saying Grace” sold at an auction on Wednesday for $46 million, a record for the Saturday Evening Post illustrator and for any American artwork sold at auction, Sotheby’s said.

click image to enlarge

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” is inspired by a Mennonite family observed praying in a restaurant.

The Associated Press

Two people on the telephone bid against each other for nine minutes before the hammer came down, the auction house said. The buyer’s identity wasn’t disclosed.

The painting had a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $20 million. In 2006, the auction house sold Rockwell’s “Breaking Home Ties” for more than $15 million, then a record.

The previous auction record for an American artwork was set in 1999, when George Bellows’ painting “Polo Crowd” sold at Sotheby’s for $27.7 million, the auction house said.

Another Rockwell painting, “The Gossips,” sold Wednesday for just under $8.5 million, while a third, “Walking to Church,” fetched a little more than $3.2 million.

For nearly two decades, all three had been on loan at the Norman Rockwell Museum in his hometown, Stockbridge, Mass. The museum has the world’s largest collection of original Rockwell art.

Rockwell was paid $3,500 for “Saying Grace,” which appeared on the cover of the magazine’s Thanksgiving issue in 1951 and was voted Post readers’ favorite cover in a 1955 poll.

The idea for the illustration came from a reader who saw a Mennonite family praying in a restaurant. Rockwell’s son Jarvis Rockwell was among the models he used for it.

The illustrator, who created his first cover for the Post in 1916, is celebrated for his reflections of small-town America and portraits of famous figures. He spent 47 years at the magazine and produced 321 covers. He died in 1978.

“The Gossips,” which was a cover illustration for the March 6, 1948, issue, depicts a montage of the artist’s neighbors, his wife and himself, finger-wagging and yammering on the phone.

“Walking to Church” appeared on the cover of the April 4, 1953, issue and shows a family dressed in its Sunday best walking along a city street.

The three paintings, along with four other Rockwell works, were auctioned by the family of Kenneth Stuart, Rockwell’s longtime art director at the magazine. The sale comes years after a legal fight among Stuart’s three sons. Rockwell and Stuart worked together at the magazine for 18 years.

Rockwell Museum director Laurie Norton Moffatt, who attended the “Saying Grace” auction, called it “a thrilling moment for Norman Rockwell.”

“It’s a painting of such significance that, wherever it is, there will hopefully be a desire to share it, have it seen in public,” she said. “We’re just so happy we were able to share it for two decades,” she said.

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors




Further Discussion

Here at PressHerald.com we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)