Before hitting the auction block next month, the beloved Norman Rockwell painting, The Rookie (The Red Sox Locker Room) (1957) will be on view for six days only at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), from April 29–May 4, 2014.
On loan to the MFA from an anonymous owner, the painting is expected to fetch between $20 million and $30 million at Christie's on May 22.
Rockwell’s classic work, portraying a group of seasoned veterans giving the once-over to the team’s newest player, was also on display at the MFA in 2005 and 2008, following World Series wins.
The painting captures Red Sox players in 1957 at spring training in Sarasota, Florida. Depicted are catcher Sammy White (at lower left of painting); pitcher Frank Sullivan (No. 18), on the bench next to outfielder Jackie Jensen; Ted Williams standing in the center; and infielder Bill Goodman at far right, suppressing a smile. On the far left is a figure Rockwell called “John J. Anonymous,” an aspiring ballplayer who finally “made the team.” Figuring prominently in the work, right of center and dressed in a suit, is the “rookie,” a local high school athlete from Pittsfield, MA—Sherman Safford—who was asked to model for Rockwell. Ted Williams was the only player who did not pose for the work—Rockwell had to rely on baseball cards for the details of his face.
The Rookie appeared on the cover of the March 2, 1957, Saturday Evening Post, the publication most closely identified with Rockwell, and for which he produced more than 300 covers.
Rockwell was best known for narrative images of seemingly everyday moments in American life, and baseball was a favorite subject. He frequently featured boys or men involved in America’s national pastime in his magazine covers, advertisements, calendars and story illustrations. Even when not specifically painting baseball, Rockwell often included the game in his work in details like the gloves, caps and bats that children hold or wear.
On Wednesdays, museum admission is by voluntary contribution after 4 pm, including on April 30, and kids 17 and under are always free at the MFA.