Painted in 1940.
Carl D. Lane, "River Pilot," The Saturday Evening Post, September 21, 1940, illustrated p. 14
Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective, New York, 1972, illustrated p. 101
Norman Rockwell, The Norman Rockwell Album, Garden City, New York, 1961, illustrated p. 101
Thomas S. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist & Illustrator, New York, 1970, no. 319, illustrated
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, vol. 1, no. S554, p. 765, illustrated
Norman Rockwell began working for The Saturday Evening Post in 1916 and continued for the next forty-seven years, producing covers and story illustrations which entertained millions of Americans over the course of generations. River Pilot appeared in the September 21, 1940 issue of the Post as an illustration for an adventure story of the same name by Carl D. Lane.
In River Pilot Rockwell has chosen to depict the most exciting moment of a story which chronicles the travails of a young pilot's first day on the S.S. River Bird as it races down the swift currents of the Connecticut River against a rival steamboat, the Amos Pruitt. "Mr. Telfer puffed his third seegar politely and watched the Amos Pruitt. The two boats held their own, smoke billowing from each, shearing the swift current of the Gorge. They raced so for an hour; Jem's piloting matching the screw boat's superior speed" (Carl D. Lane, 'River Pilot', The Saturday Evening Post, New York, 1940, p.94). Rockwell's illustration depicts a tense scene in the wheelhouse as Jem Bates, the new pilot, spyglass poised, intently tracks the river ahead, his helmsman at the wheel, the Captain peering ahead and a railroad inspector named Telfer comfortably seated behind the group on the wheelhouse settee.
Rockwell was extremely pleased with the results of this painting and in a letter to Wesley Winans Stout, his editor at the Post from 1937-1942, he wrote: "There is no real rush, but I'm still hoping to get a photograph of that riverboat painting for that new book tat [sic] is coming out...P.S. By the way your daughter wouldn't consider selling me the picture?" (Letter from Norman Rockwell written in 1961 to Wesley Winans Stout, grandfather of the present owner). In addition, Rockwell wrote as a caption for the painting: "One of my better illustrations, I think. It was painted for a wonderful story about a race between two steamboats on the Connecticut River" (The Norman Rockwell Album, Garden City, New York, 1961, p.101).
A copy of a letter from Norman Rockwell to Mr. Stout will accompany the lot.
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