DescriptionNorman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)
Lazybones, The Saturday Evening Post cover, September 6, 1919
Oil on canvas
26 x 24 inches (66.0 x 61.0 cm)
Signed center left: Norman / Rockwell
PROPERTY FROM THE GRANT FAMILY COLLECTION
Robert Grant, Jr., Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 1952;
Stolen and whereabouts unknown, 1976-2017;
Grant Family, New Jersey, by descent from Robert Grant, Jr.
L. N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 81, fig. C211, illustrated (as Boy Asleep with Hoe).
Norman Rockwell's Lazybones, variously titled Taking a Break and Boy Asleep with Hoe, is nothing short of a trifecta for collectors. It stands as one of the artist's first Saturday Evening Post covers, produced in 1919 when he was only twenty-five. Lazybones illustrates not simply the popular Rockwell subject of childhood, but the quintessential American prankster-adventurer, Huck Finn; with his straw hat and bandana, work shirt, and tattered pants with suspenders, Lazybones comes straight out of the pages of Mark Twain's novel. Not least, the painting has its own wild back-story, ripped from the headlines. The author Deborah Davis describes in an online article for Julius Lowy Frame and Restoring Company the strange and marvelous history of the painting, which contributes to its mystique:
"In 1919, when artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell was twenty-five- years old and starting out on his legendary career, he painted a whimsical cover for The Saturday Evening Post. Lazybones depicted a chubby adolescent boy playing hooky from his gardening chores -- his eyes closed, his mouth slack, his faithful dog asleep on his thigh, and his straw hat and hoe tossed aside while he naps.
"The painting (not considered valuable at the time) hung in a New Jersey man's recreation room...until the fateful day in the early 1950s when Robert Grant came over to play pool. Grant inadvertently tore the Rockwell with his cue stick and ended up paying his friend between $50 and $100 dollars for the damaged painting, which he happily hung in his home.
"Lazybones became a Grant family treasure, but the sleeping adolescent's adventures were far from over. In 1976, burglars broke into the house and stole a television, a coin collection, and the Rockwell. They left no clues and the Grants despaired at ever finding their beloved painting.
"Forty years later, the Grants told their story to an FBI agent who specialized in art theft. The agency issued a press release on the anniversary of the robbery, and it caught the attention of an antiques dealer who had what he thought was a damaged Rockwell reproduction hanging in his kitchen. He delivered Lazybones to the FBI and, miraculously, the long-lost painting was reunited with the Grant family. They knew it was their painting when they saw the pool cue hole that had never been repaired."
Since its rediscovery, Lazybones has been meticulously restored by Lowy's conservation team, who removed layers of yellow varnish and surface dirt and repaired the notorious divot inflicted by the pool cue. Now returned to its original vibrancy, Lazybones has become even more of a collector's prize - and one that can be obtained through Heritage.
We wish to thank Deborah Davis, author of nine books, including Strapless: John Singer Sargent and the Fall of Madame X and The Trip: Andy Warhol's Plastic Fantastic Cross-Country Adventure, for her contribution to this essay.
A copy of The Saturday Evening Post cover that depicts the present work accompanies the present work.
The present work is being sold in frame provided by the consignor. It has been exhibited in a carved and painted frame on loan from Julius Lowy Frame and Restoring Company. Please inquire with the department for details.
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