13 Rockwells to Lead Sotheby's American Art Auction on 23 May

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    13 Rockwells to Lead Sotheby's American Art Auction on 23 May

Sotheby’s New York to Present AMERICAN ART May Auction to Feature: 13 Works by Norman Rockwell, Led by Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe *** A Striking Portrait by N.C. Wyeth *** Romantic Landscapes from the Hudson Valley School *** Milton Avery’s Modern Masterpiece


EW YORK, 7 May 2018 – Sotheby’s is delighted to announce our annual spring auction of American Art will be held in New York on 23 May 2018. Led by 13 works by Norman Rockwell from all periods of the artist’s decades-long career, the sale features 120+ lots that are together estimated at more than $40 million. The auction also includes exceptional examples by Frederic Edwin Church, N.C. Wyeth, Milton Avery, Albert Bierstadt and Thomas Moran – many of which are from distinguished private collections and are coming to auction for the very first time. Our exhibition opens to the public on 19 May, with a selection of highlights on view from 4 May.


Leading the selection of works by Norman Rockwell is Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop), sold to benefit the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts (below, estimate $7/10 million). Commissioned for a 1940 The Saturday Evening Post story by Edward W. O’Brien, this monumental painting – measuring nearly six feet across – illustrates a horseshoe-forging contest, which O’Brien captured from the point of view of the local blacksmith’s son:

“I’ll never forget that last hour. And never, I imagine, will any of those who watched. Both men were lost to everything now but the swing from the forge to the anvil, the heels to be turned and the toes to be welded.”

The drama of the competition is palpable as the two men captivate the growing crowd with their strength and skill. Working from photography and his own imagination, Rockwell exactingly depicts 23 figures in this impressive composition, including a self-portrait and two different representations of one of his favorite models, Harvey McKee – the undersheriff of the town of Arlington, Vermont.

Another exceptional example by Norman Rockwell is The Little Model from 1919 (estimate $1/1.5 million). A gift from the artist to his aunt that has remained in the family collection for nearly a century, the work was completed for the 29 March 1919 cover of Collier’s, making it one of Rockwell’s earliest images executed on commission for a prominent American publication. Rendered in the artist’s early style and technique, The Little Model brilliantly captures a young girl’s wistfulness and longing to transform into a beautiful adult, a detail highlighted when it appeared on Antiques Road Show in 2011.

Rockwell’s Boy Playing Flute Surrounded by Animals (Springtime) is another major highlight of the auction, carrying an estimate of $1.5/2.5 million. Appearing on the 16 April 1927 cover of The Saturday Evening Post, the painting captures the artist’s pivotal transition from his early aesthetic to his most iconic style; the white background evokes his earlier vignette-style format while the near-photographic likeness of the animated animals dancing around the young boy’s feet foreshadows his mature works. Spirited and cheerful, the painting comes to auction for the first time from the collection of Jack and Bonita Granville Wrather – he the producer of films such as The Lone Ranger and Lassie, she the Hollywood actress who brought Nancy Drew to life.

Nearly forty years after the completion of Springtime comes Little Girl Looking Downstairs at Christmas Party, one of Rockwell’s most recognizable images. Painted for the cover of the December 1964 issue of  McCall’s, the work depicts a forlorn young girl looking from the top of the stairs at the merry cocktail party taking place downstairs that she cannot join. A gift from the artist and being offered for the first time, this beloved image will be presented with a pre-sale estimate of $1/1.5 million.


Also appearing at auction for the very first time is N.C. Wyeth’s Portrait of a Farmer (Pennsylvania Farmer) from 1943, which was formerly in the collection of the artist’s wife. Wyeth created this striking portrait by synthesizing his memories and experiences of his Pennsylvania home: the architectural elements are common to the Chadds Ford area, while the subject is based upon a local farmer whom Wyeth encountered carrying a pig under his arm. The artist discussed Portrait of a Farmer in a 21 January 1943 letter to his daughter Henriette, writing: “In spite of all, my present large panel of the squealing pig is vastly superior to anything to date.” In keeping with the true quality of this work, the painting will be offered this May with an estimate of $2.5/3.5 million.


Also sold to benefit the Berkshire Museum is Frederic Edwin Church’s Valley of Santa Isabel, New Granada (estimate $5/7 million). One of the finest panoramic landscapes of his oeuvre, this rare and extraordinary painting showcases Church’s incredible attention to naturalistic detail, romantic sentiment and unmatched ability to capture light. Completed in 1875 after he achieved broad critical and popular success with works such as Heart of the Andes and The Icebergs, held by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Dallas Museum of Art respectively, the work is one of Church’s final paintings.

  • 23.05.2018
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    American Art Auction | 23 May
    New York Exhibition | 19 – 22 May 

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  • Norman Rockwell Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe Estimate $7/10 Million Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe illustration © SEPS licensed by Curtis Licensing Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.
    Norman Rockwell Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe Estimate $7/10 Million Blacksmith’s Boy – Heel and Toe illustration © SEPS licensed by Curtis Licensing Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.
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