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PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF OGDEN MILLS PHIPPS

Norman Rockwell 1894 - 1978
PIPE AND BOWL SIGN PAINTER (COLONIAL SIGN PAINTER)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,500,0002,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,692,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
38

PROPERTY FROM THE ESTATE OF OGDEN MILLS PHIPPS

Norman Rockwell 1894 - 1978
PIPE AND BOWL SIGN PAINTER (COLONIAL SIGN PAINTER)
Estimate
Irrevocable Bids
Lots with this symbol indicate that a party has provided Sotheby’s with an irrevocable bid on the lot that will be executed during the sale at a value that ensures that the lot will sell. The irrevocable bidder, who may bid in excess of the irrevocable bid, will be compensated based on the final hammer price in the event he or she is not the successful bidder or may receive a fixed fee in the event he or she is the successful bidder. If the irrevocable bidder is the successful bidder, the fixed fee (if applicable) for providing the irrevocable bid may be netted against the irrevocable bidder’s obligation to pay the full purchase price for the lot and the purchase price reported for the lot shall be net of such fixed fee. If the irrevocable bid is not secured until after the printing of the auction catalogue, a pre-lot announcement will be made indicating that there is an irrevocable bid on the lot. If the irrevocable bidder is advising anyone with respect to the lot, Sotheby’s requires the irrevocable bidder to disclose his or her financial interest in the lot. If an agent is advising you or bidding on your behalf with respect to a lot identified as being subject to an irrevocable bid, you should request that the agent disclose whether or not he or she has a financial interest in the lot.
Guaranteed Property
Guaranteed Property. The seller of lots with this symbol has been guaranteed a minimum price from one auction or a series of auctions. If every lot in a catalogue is guaranteed, the Conditions of Sale will so state and this symbol will not be used for each lot.
1,500,0002,500,000
LOT SOLD. 1,692,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

American Art

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New York

Norman Rockwell 1894 - 1978
PIPE AND BOWL SIGN PAINTER (COLONIAL SIGN PAINTER)
signed Norman Rockwell (lower right)
oil on canvas
27 by 21 7/8 inches
(65.6 by 55.6 cm)
Painted in 1926.
Read Condition Report Read Condition Report

Provenance

Bernard Danenberg Galleries, New York
Acquired by the present owner, circa 1985

Literature

The Saturday Evening Post, February 6, 1926, illustrated on the cover © SEPS licensed by Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.
Dr. Donald Stoltz and Marshall L. Stoltz, Norman Rockwell and ‘The Saturday Evening Post:’ 1916-1928, New York, 1976, vol. I, p. 169, illustrated p. 170
Mary Moline, Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia: A Chronological Catalogue of the Artist’s Work 1910-1978, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, illustrated fig. 1-193, p. 47
Susan E. Meyer, Norman Rockwell’s People, New York, 1981, illustrated p. 51
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: Catalogue Raisonné, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, vol. I, no. 273, p. 103, illustrated p. 102 
Jan Cohn, Covers of “The Saturday Evening Post:” Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America’s Favorite Magazine, New York, 1995, illustrated p. 86
Karal Ann Marling, Norman Rockwell, New York, 1997, p. 48, illustrated
Judy Goffman Cutler and Laurence S. Cutler, Norman Rockwell’s America …In England, Newport, Rhode Island, 2010, illustrated p. 174

Catalogue Note

The first image to appear in full color on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter is a remarkable example from Norman Rockwell’s beloved body of work. Rockwell’s professional relationship with The Saturday Evening Post was the most significant one of his career; for nearly 50 years, he executed over 300 memorable images that appeared on its cover beginning in 1916, when George Horace Lorimer, the editor of The Post from 1899 to 1937, accepted two of his paintings for publication. A decade later Rockwell had created nearly 80 covers, and his subtly nostalgic and persistently optimistic imagery—infused with a sense of warmth and humor—had become almost synonymous with The Post itself.

To coincide with the sesquicentennial anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, which America was celebrating in 1926, Lorimer wanted this cover to reference The Post’s historical association with Benjamin Franklin, whose own publication the Pennsylvania Gazette became known as The Saturday Evening Post in 1821. He asked Rockwell to set the scene in Franklin’s place and time. Lorimer, explains Jan Cohn, “believed that one important aim for The Post was to create a sense of nationalism strong enough to override America’s regional differences. Thus, just as nonfiction frequently turned to American history for subject matter, these covers mined the same material to create the visual representations of heroic and sentimental episodes” (Covers of ‘The Saturday Evening Post: Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America’s Favorite Magazine, New York, 1995, p. 2). Rockwell also had a personal interest in this historical period, and his Colonial Revival house in New Rochelle, New York was filled with artifacts and props like the ones seen in Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter that captured from life.

Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter
depicts one of Rockwell’s favorite models from the 1920s, his friend and neighbor, James K. Van Brunt. Van Brunt posed for Rockwell as a number of diverse characters and in a variety of narratives during this time. From the outset, it was Van Brunt’s magnificent mustache—neatly trimmed, parted in the middle, and swept downward—that attracted Rockwell, and he immediately began to sketch the man upon meeting him, claiming, “What a face! And mine…all mine” (Norman Rockwell, Norman Rockwell: My Adventures as an Illustrator, New York, 1994, p. 203). A long working relationship and friendship commenced after their initial meeting, and Rockwell later fondly described the day that the old man first appeared at his studio as being “one of the luckiest days of my life” (Ibid.).

Indeed, Rockwell utilized Van Brunt as a model so frequently that Lorimer eventually asked him to stop, feeling that the model’s likeness—his mustache in particular—was too identifiable and thus becoming repetitive. Rather than desist from portraying Van Brunt, however, Rockwell offered to pay him ten dollars to shave. Though Van Brunt complied, Rockwell ultimately came to regret their deal, believing that he had caused something akin to “the felling of a great oak.” Van Brunt continued to pose for the artist until his death in 1935, but Rockwell often hid his face in a wide range of clever situations and guises to appease his editor.

In Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter, Rockwell depicts Van Brunt as an artist at work painting a sign for a colonial tavern. In his characteristic manner, Rockwell elevates Lorimer's historical theme with his technical skill, sense of humor and unmatched creativity in Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter. The work features the more painterly manner of execution that was typical of Rockwell’s aesthetic in the 1920s and 1930s. Rockwell transitioned away from this style after 1937 when photography became an integral part of his process, but here it contributes to the work’s rich and lively surface. As in the best of Rockwell’s works, Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter is also notable for its strong narrative content. Dr. Donald Stoltz and Marshall L. Stoltz explain, “The cosmetically lovely face on the signboard is hardly a mirror for the worn but plucky face of the sign painter, who, perhaps due to the influence of the contents of the pewter jug, has got the stem of the wineglass in the picture a little crooked” (Norman Rockwell and ‘The Saturday Evening Post:’ 1916-1928, New York, 1976, vol. I, p. 169).

Rockwell enjoyed placing works of art by other artists—both his predecessors and contemporaries—within his own compositions. He also frequently references the act of painting itself, as displayed in works such as his iconic Triple Self-Portrait of 1960 and Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter. This recurring theme—one of his favorites throughout his career—provided the type of visual humor Rockwell loved to present to his viewers. But beyond the wit and humor the allusion provided, Rockwell also used it to demonstrate his sophistication as an artist. In Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter the specific subject becomes self-referential: just as the colonial artist is charged with creating an artwork for the tavern, Rockwell is himself an artist charged with creating an artwork for The Saturday Evening Post. Embedded with multiple layers of meaning, works such as Pipe and Bowl Sign Painter testify to Rockwell’s consummate ability to elevate commercial endeavors into the aesthetic realm. “No man with a conscience can just bat out illustrations," he stated of his work. "He’s got to put all of his talent, all of his feeling into them. If illustration is not considered art, then that is something we have brought upon ourselves by not considering ourselves artists. I believe that we should say, ‘I am not just an illustrator, I am an artist’” (quoted in Judy Goffman, The Great American Illustrators, New York, 1993, p. 122).

American Art

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New York