Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), A Man's Wife, signed and inscribed `To Steve Kovac/sincerely/Norman/Rockwell' (lower right) charcoal and pencil on paper, 31 x 23 3/4 in. (78.7 x 60.3 cm.), image; 32 x 24.1/2 in. (81.3 x 62.2 cm.), sheet. Executed in 1939. Estimate: $30,000 – $50,000. Photo: Christie's Images Ltd 2012.
NEW YORK, NY.- Christie’s announced the September Sale of American Art in New York on September 25. Led by two superb Norman Rockwell drawings, the sale features over 160 lots by eminent American artists, including Greg Wyatt, Mary Cassatt, and Mario Korbel, among others. Comprised of Impressionism, Modernism, Westerns, Illustrations, and bronzes, and with estimates ranging from $3,000 to $120,000, the sale caters to collectors at all levels and of all interests. The sale is expected to realize in excess of $2.5 million.
Norman Rockwell’s Study for ‘The Runaway’ leads the sale (estimate: $80,000 – $120,000). Arguably the artist’s most iconic image, the completed work was used as a Saturday Evening Post cover for the September 20, 1958 issue. The scene features a young boy who has packed up all of his belongings into a neatly folded knapsack and run away from home. Before setting out on his adventure, he stops at a local diner only to find himself caught up in a conversation with a friendly policeman, who is earnestly asking him to reconsider his departure. As is the case with most of Rockwell’s artwork, he found models among the locals in his town. Richard Clemens, a 29-year-old trooper and neighbor of the artist in Stockbridge was asked to don his uniform and meet at a local restaurant. There he was introduced to an 8-year-old boy, Eddie Locke, who had been recruited from a nearby elementary school. Originally, the Saturday Evening Post acquired the study directly from the artist, and upon the retirement of the present owner’s mother from her longstanding job at the Post, the work was given to her. It has remained with the family for many years and has since been given to the current owner by his mother.
Also featured in the sale is Rockwell’s Study for ‘A Man’s Wife,’ an illustration completed to accompany a story written by Howard Fast in the February 1939 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal (estimate: $30,000 – $50,000). The story fictionally chronicled the lives of Martha and George Washington in the camp at Valley Forge. Rockwell was gifted in that he was able to choose the correct moment in the story for the illustration, creating enough of an interest in the viewer for them to read the story. The scene that Rockwell chose to illustrate is the moment when Martha Washington enters the kitchen to find that the supper she had planned to serve to Colonel Hamilton has been burned and is now inedible. Knowing that food is scarce, the kitchenmaid is distraught by her mistake and is found weeping on a bench. When Martha asks why the meal is ruined, a sentry who had been stationed outside the house, rushes in and jumps to the young girl’s defense, appealing to the romantic sensitivities of the female readers. The study was given by the artist directly to his friend and barber, Steven M. Kovac, whose name appears in the dedication at lower right. The picture has remained in the family ever since.
Greg Wyatt’s 'Fantasy Fountain': A Bronze Figural Group is among the sale’s sculptural highlights (estimate: $30,000 – $50,000). Cast in 1983 and formerly displayed in Gramercy Park, the sculpture depicts a smiling moon flanked by dancing giraffes, from whose mouths water flows in warm weather. A larger version of this sculpture with similar features is Wyatt's Peace Fountain in Morningside Heights, New York. A native of the Hudson River Valley Wyatt was nurtured in its artistic tradition and has taken on cast bronze as his primary medium. Though the subjects of his artwork are often lyrical in nature, the artist takes great care in executing his works with the exquisite detailing.
Mary Cassat’s Baby Embracing Her Mother is a lovely example of the artist’s experimentation with pastel counterproofs, at the encouragement of renowned dealer Ambroise Vollard (estimate: $30,000 – 50,000). Counterproofs are created by placing a dampened sheet of paper on top of a pastel and applying pressure to transfer some of the pastel to the new sheet. The technique creates a mirror image that has a softer look than the original, and the pastel appears essentially unchanged. While the theme of maternity is a hallmark of Cassatt, her counterproofs demonstrate that she continued to innovate and create appealing images longafter she moved away from Impressionism.
Andante, also known as Dancing Girls, is one of Mario Joseph Korbel’s most celebrated classical works (estimate: $30,000 – 50,000). Korbel was greatly influenced by antiquity, often looking back to early Greek sculpture for inspiration. Andante embodies a classical sense of proportion and rhythm, capturing two women in a slow and ritualistic dance. This sculpture is one of at least two versions from 1926, nine years after Korbel cast seven smaller versions of the work. Another example of this work is in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.