Sotheby’s American art sale is dominated by Norman Rockwell illustrations
Norman Rockwell illustrations won the day at Sotheby’s May 23 auction of American art. The sale totaled $43.3 million, with the Rockwells accounting for six of the top 10 lots.the 12 works offered from the artist realized a total of $19.8 million, led by the monumental Blacksmith’s Boy—heel and Toe (Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop)
(est. $7/10 million), which achieved $8.1 million.
“The sale went very well overall, and we were pleased with the results,” says Sotheby’s vice president of American art Kayla Carlsen. “the significant takeaway was really in the strength of the illustration market in general, and Norman Rockwell in particular.”
Other Rockwell successes included Boy Playing Flute Surrounded by Animals (Springtime), which achieved $4.1 million, above its high estimate of $2.5 million; Little Girl Looking Downstairs at Christmas Party (est. $1/1.5 million), which sold for
$2.1 million; Overheard Lovers (est. $800/1,200,000), which realized $1.6 million; The Little Model (est. $1/1.5 million), which achieved $1.2 million; and What a Difference Light Makes! (Young Couple Surprised by Young Brother) which soared passed its high estimate of $500,000 to sell for $1.2 million. “In the past, Rockwell collectors have traditionally valued cover illustrations over advertisement, but with What a Difference Light Makes!, there were many bidders that drove the sale price over its estimate,” Carlsen elaborates. She sees this as a sign that people are beginning to bid based on the image itself, rather than because of the image’s original use. N.c .wyeth also performed well, setting a new world auction record with Portrait of a Farmer (Pennsylvania Farmer) (est. $2.5/3.5 million), which was the second-highest achieving lot in the sale at
$6 million.“it was rendered by N.c. wyeth as a personal work rather than a commission, explains Carlsen. “it appealed to illustration buyers, Bucks County collectors and regionalist collectors, so it was not a surprise at all that it did so well.”
George Luks’ The Swan Boats, a circa 1922 painting depicting the pond in the Boston Common, sold for $1.2 million, well above its high estimate of $700,000. Proceeds from this sale will benefit the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Another highlight was Milton Avery’s The Seamstress, which achieved $2.2 million.
Milton Avery (1885-1965), The Seamstress, 1944. Oil on canvas, 48 x 32 in., signed and dated center left: ‘Milton Avery / 1944’. © 2018 Milton Avery Trust / Artists Rights Society (ARS),New York. Estimate: $2/3 million SOLD: $2,175,000
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Little Girl Looking Downstairs atChristmas Party, 1964. Oil on canvas, 28 x 29 in., signed lower right: ‘Norman/rockwell’. Estimate: $1/1.5 million SOLD: $2,055,000
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), The Little Model, 1919. Oil on canvas, 30 x 16 in., signed lower left: ‘Norman/rockwell’. Estimate $1/1.5 million SOLD: $1,215,000
N.C. Wyeth (1882-1945), Portrait of a Farmer (Pennsylvania Farmer), 1943. Tempera on Renaissance panel, 40 x 60 in., signed lower left: ‘N.C. Wyeth’. Estimate: $2.5/3.5 million SOLD: $5,985,900