Nine works by Norman Rockwell and new auction records for seven artists drove Heritage Auctions’ May 4 American Art Auction in Dallas, Texas to $4,571,987.50 versus pre-sale estimates of $3,503,200-$5,237,800 (includes estimates of the unsold lots). The auction sold 96 percent by value and 91 percent by lot.
“Norman Rockwell is among the most beloved and important American artists of all time,” Heritage Auctions Director of American Art Aviva Lehmann said. “Art lovers of all levels and types can relate to the people in his paintings, which is why an auction like this one was such a success.”
Once in the private collection of late actor Debbie Reynolds, Norman Rockwell Ben Franklin's Sesquicentennial, The Saturday Evening Post cover, May 29, 1926 sold for $762,500. One of Rockwell’s most patriotic images, it was commissioned in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence and is Rockwell’s only cover lot featuring a Founding Father.
Another lot from the famed illustrator that drew major interest from collectors was Norman Rockwell The Census Taker, The Saturday Evening Post cover study, 1940, which brought $372,500. While the painting offers a humorous view of a mother trying to wrangle six children while answering questions, The Census Taker also documented a serious and important event in American History: the 1940 U.S. Census. That census occurred April 1, only weeks before the April 27 debut of this Post cover.
Numerous bidders pursued Joseph Christian Leyendecker Living Mannequin, The Saturday Evening Post cover, March 5, 1932 until it drew $312,500 – more than double its pre-auction low estimate. Originally from the estate of Harry Glass, of Long Island, New York, the painting from Illustration’s Golden Age originally sold at the 1943 U.S. War Bond at the United States Treasury-Saturday Evening Post War Bond Show, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Competitive bidding helped John S. Jameson Grazing Sheep at Headwaters of a Stream, 1862 crush its pre-auction estimate when it realized $250,000, a new auction record for the artist. The influence of the Hudson River School on the young prodigy – Jameson died at just 22 years old after being captured while fighting in the Civil War – is evident in this landscape and exploration into theatrical light and weather effects.
Rockwell’s Before the Shot, The Saturday Evening Post cover study, 1958 went for $187,500. A preparatory study for an illustration that graced the March 15, 1958 cover of The Saturday Evening Post and of the artist's most iconic and most popular images, it was exhibited alongside the final painting at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge.
Rockwell broke from his stance of shielding his political views in Norman Rockwell The Day I Painted Ike (All through that grind of turning on different moods, he never lost patience. At the end-by golly, it was time to go fishing.), The Saturday Evening Post interior illustration, 1952, which sold for $150,000. The artist’s admiration for the 34th U.S. president was so unwavering that Ben Hibbs, then the editor of the Saturday Evening Post, wrote to Rockwell saying, “If Ike is elected, as I think he will be, no small share of the credit should go to Norman Rockwell.”
Other lots that established new auction records:
- P. Wilson Mr. Trunk and his Advisors – His Friends, Old Mr. Parrot and Mr. Starling, 1862: $13,750
- Henry Schnakenberg Summer in the Park (Central Park, Bethesda Fountain): $13,750
- Belle Goldschlager Baranceanu Road Near Mount Wilson, California: $11,250
- Max Arthur Cohn Belmore Cafeteria, 1937: $6,875
- Andrée Ruellan Docks at Roundabout, 1947: $6,250
- Nathalie Newking Baigneuses et chevreau, 1924: $4,875
Other top lots included, but were not limited to:
- Norman Rockwell Stealing Socks, Interwoven Stocking advertisement, 1928: $143,750
- LeRoy Neiman Paris – Cafe Deux Magots, 1961: $81,250
- Marguerite Thompson Zorach, Mother and Child, 1919: $75,000
- Milton Avery Churning Bay, 1945: $65,625
- Blanche Lazzell Black Fish and Untitled (double-sided work), 1920: $50,000
- Norman Rockwell Man with Rod and Reel, probable advertisement study, circa 1940: $50,000