Norman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978) Home f...
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DescriptionNorman Rockwell (American, 1894-1978)
Home for Thanksgiving, The Saturday Evening Post cover, November 24, 1945
Oil on canvas
35 x 33 inches (88.9 x 83.8 cm)
Signed and inscribed lower center: Thanksgiving / Norman Rockwell
Bears inscription on the reverse: P765
Property from the E.M. Connor Post #193 American Legion, Winchendon, Massachusetts, Being Sold To Benefit Operational and Building Funds
Monsignor Wilfred Tisdale, New York;
The E.M. Connor Post #193 American Legion of Winchendon, Winchendon, Massachusetts, gift from the above, circa 1950.
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, January, 1989-June 4, 1990;
Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, November 6, 1991-January 1992;
New York Historical Society, New York, and elsewhere, "Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms," May 25, 2018-May 31, 2021 (as Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes).
M. Moline, Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia: A Chronological Catalog of the Artist's Work 1910-1978, Indianapolis, Indiana, p. 71, fig. 1-343, illustrated;
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Vol. 1, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, p. 163, fig. C423, illustrated (as Thanksgiving: Mother and Son Peeling Potatoes).
Norman Rockwell continues to move – to reassure -- Americans of every generation who have experienced firsthand the strife of war. That is but one reason among many why his art endures, why his images of long-ago yesterdays continue to resonate. A U.K. newspaper, of all places, said it well in 2013, when The Guardian noted that "in the dark days of the second world war, Rockwell played a critical role in helping Americans on the home front understand what was at stake in the fighting going on in Europe and the Pacific."
The narrative depicted in the beloved and oft-reproduced masterwork Home for Thanksgiving tells a story far greater than just that of the scene at hand. Commissioned for the November 24, 1945, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, this painting tells the tale of the first Thanksgiving after the Allies' victory. It is not just the story of an individual soldier and his proud, doting mother, but that of the nation.
For many, Thanksgiving is the quintessential American holiday. It represents a sense of warmth, home, family, and tradition. Rockwell created several Thanksgiving paintings and illustrations, ranging from the heartwarming to the humorous. The most well-known of these is likely Freedom from Want (also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I'll Be Home for Christmas), which depicts a grandmother serving her family with an enormous, fresh-roasted turkey. The painting was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address and features the artist's friends and family. An earlier illustration from 1917, Cousin Reginald Catches the Thanksgiving Turkey, demonstrates Rockwell's fanciful side, showing a turkey chasing a young boy – the hunter becoming the hunted. Simply put, a family-oriented, warm and cozy holiday tradition is the antidote to the violence and fear associated with war.
The subject of war, and the pain and apprehension related to seeing loved ones head into battle, is a universal concept Americans understand, regardless of class, race, gender and social standing. Before television and movies, magazines and newspapers were the public's sources of news. Rockwell understood his profound responsibility, and didn't take the task lightly. Rockwell, writes Christopher Finch, "is far from being a warlike person; he is, on the contrary, a gentleman in the literal sense of the word. Yet the war brought out the best in him and turned him toward the naturalistic portrait of home-town America which he put to good use in the decades that followed. His immediate contribution to the war effort on the home front was quite considerable. What is most important about this period, in relation to his career as an illustrator, is the fact that he was given this opportunity to prove to himself and to others that he was capable of dealing with serious subjects without abandoning the human touch which had always been his trademark." (Norman Rockwell's America, New York, 1975, p. 200)
As the artist himself wrote on the subject of war: "One of the most difficult problems in painting magazine covers is thinking up ideas which a majority of readers will understand. The farmer worries about the price of milk; the housewife fusses over the drapes for the dining room; the gossip gossips about Mrs. Purdy and her highfalutin airs. You have to think of an idea which will mean something to all of them. ... In wartime the problem vanishes. Everyone in the country is thinking along the same lines, the war penetrates into everyone's life. Johnny Sax, the boy next door, joins up; sugar can't be bought for blood or money; war bond posters are plastered all over town...And during a war there's always a crowd of new and different ideas hanging around. Everything's changed. Men go off to war." (T. Rockwell, My Adventures as an illustrator: The Definitive Edition, New York, 2019, pp. 146-48)
With the trials and tribulations of going to and returning from the battlefield in mind, Rockwell was preoccupied with communicating how Americans felt at once triumphant and exhausted after so many years of conflict and so many lives lost. Initially, Rockwell had traveled to Maine to capture images of a family for reference, but according to Rockwell Museum curator Linda Pero: "He had problems in the drawings." The composition and subjects chosen at this time did not adequately suggest the feeling of homecoming that the artist desired, the young man did not show the war weariness so critical to the painting's message. Ultimately this led to Rockwell choosing Fara Hagelberg and her son Richard, Rockwell's milkman and former bombardier during the war, as subjects in Home for Thanksgiving.
After owning this iconic and highly important Rockwell for close to 50 years, the E.M. Connor Post #193 American Legion of Winchendon in Massachusetts has decided to sell at Heritage Auctions. Due to declining membership and the need for major improvements to the Post, the time has come to sell -- a gut-wrenching but necessary decision. The Post building is not only a home for Veterans, Sons of the Legion and Auxiliary, it is widely used by the various organizations within the Winchendon community.
There is a certain sense of poetry, of life coming full circle, as present-day military heroes part with an endearingly patriotic depiction of a World War II military hero. May this painting bring as much excitement and joy to the new owner as it did to the Winchendon American Legion.
More information about Norman Rockwell, also known as Rockwell, Norman, Norman Rockwell, Rockwell, Norman Perceval.
Estimate: $4,000,000 - $6,000,000.
Framed Dimensions 39.5 X 37.5 Inches
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