Lot 42
  • 42

Norman Rockwell 1894 - 1978

1,200,000 - 1,800,000 USD
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  • Norman Rockwell
  • Organist Waiting for Cue
  • signed Norman Rockwell and inscribed To Joe Aspinall/sincerely/Norman/Rockwell (lower right)
  • oil on canvas
  • 30 by 25 inches
  • (76.2 by 63.5 cm)
  • Painted in 1928.


Joe Aspinall, 1934 (gift from the artist)
By descent to the present owner


Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Norman Rockwell Museum (on loan)


The Saturday Evening Post, June 23, 1928, illustrated on the cover © SEPS licensed by Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved.
Dr. Donald Stoltz and Marshall L. Stoltz, Normal Rockwell and ‘The Saturday Evening Post:’ 1916-1928, New York, 1976, vol. 1, p. 215, illustrated p. 216
Mary Moline, Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia: A Chronological Catalogue of the Artist’s Work 1910-1978, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, illustrated 1-216, p. 50
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: Catalogue Raisonné, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, vol. I, no. C296, p. 111, illustrated
Jan Cohn, Covers of “The Saturday Evening Post:” Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America’s Favorite Magazine, New York, 1995, illustrated p. 123
Judy Goffman Cutler and Laurence S. Cutler, Norman Rockwell’s America …In England, Newport, Rhode Island, 2010, illustrated p. 177


Please contact the American Art department for this condition report: (212) 606 7280 or americanart@sothebys.com
In response to your inquiry, we are pleased to provide you with a general report of the condition of the property described above. Since we are not professional conservators or restorers, we urge you to consult with a restorer or conservator of your choice who will be better able to provide a detailed, professional report. Prospective buyers should inspect each lot to satisfy themselves as to condition and must understand that any statement made by Sotheby's is merely a subjective qualified opinion.

Catalogue Note

In 1916, at the age of 22, Norman Rockwell painted his first cover for The Saturday Evening Post. Throughout the course of his ensuing decades-long partnership with America’s most popular magazine, Rockwell ultimately executed 321 cover illustrations. By presenting his audience with wholesome, humorous and idealistic images of their own lives, Rockwell earned a reputation as one of the most celebrated illustrators of the 20th century.

Rockwell presented Organist Waiting for Cue as a wedding present to his friend and fellow artist, Joe Aspinall, in 1934. The artist invited Aspinall to his studio to select one of his paintings himself and, given the occasion and the specific imagery of the work, he chose Organist Waiting for Cue. The painting appeared on the cover of The Post in June 1928 and marks the second to last appearance of one of Rockwell’s favorite models of the period, James K. Van Brunt. Van Brunt, who is distinguished by his magnificent eight-inch long mustache, posed for Rockwell as a number of characters over a fifteen year period, including a man browsing a book stall. In the present picture, Rockwell depicts Van Brunt as an organist poised to play "The Wedding March." He captures the anticipatory seconds before the bride walks down the aisle, and the organist’s raised hands and sideways glance suspend this moment in time. The expressive application of paint is typical of the artist’s early work, and he renders each detail of the composition–from the intricately carved organ to the sheet music–with remarkable detail.

Later in life, Rockwell recalled the day that the animated Van Brunt arrived at his studio in New Rochelle: “I remember it was June and terribly hot… Suddenly the downstairs door banged and I heard someone come up the stairs treading on each stair with a loud, deliberate thump. My word, I thought, here comes a monster. A sharp, peremptory knock rattled the door… The door was thrust open by a tiny old man with a knobby nose, an immense, drooping mustache, and round, heavy-lidded eyes stamped bellicosely into the studio. ‘James K. Van Brunt, sir’ he said, saluting me and bowing all at once. ‘Five feet two inches tall, sir. The exact height of Napoleon Bonaparte.’… Then, having ascertained that I wasn’t going to contradict him, he took off his gloves and his wide-brimmed hat, laid them on a chair, and patted his mustache. ‘This mustache, sir,’ he said, ‘is eight full inches wide from tip to tip. The ladies, sir, make much of it.’ And he winked at me and walked over to my mirror to stare at his mustache" (Norman Rockwell, Norman Rockwell: My Adventurers as an Illustrator, New York, 1994, p. 203).

Van Brunt, who himself enjoyed a happy marriage, was the ideal character to promulgate the joys of the institution. In a conversation with Donald Stolz, Rockwell recalls an exchange with Van Brunt about his wife: “'There was a woman. She weighed two hundred and twenty-two pounds exactly. Dandled me on her knee like a baby. She swore that if I got any smaller she’d stuff me in a milk bottle and seal it up and lay me by.” “He’d chuckle and go on about her virtues,” Rockwell said. “What a good cook and housekeeper she had been, how she had darned his socks. ‘A soldier’s wife! Rawhide, sir, rawhide to the bone.’ Then he’d stop, and all the sparkle would go out of his eyes and he’s look at the floor. ‘But tender, Mr. Rockwell, and loving. A wonderful, wonderful woman!’” (Norman Rockwell and ‘The Saturday Evening Post:’ 1916-1928, New York, 1976, p. 215).

Organist Waiting for Cue is the first of two Post covers Rockwell painted that relate to weddings. The second, Marriage License, appeared on the cover of the publication in 1955 and depicts a young couple in the town clerk’s office in the artist’s hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. It is a more literal depiction of marriage that embodies the theme of young love, a motif which the artist felt was an integral part of growing up and appears in many of his compositions. While the two covers were executed nearly thirty years apart, they both demonstrate Rockwell’s characteristic ability to capture the drama of every day life. Combining his technical precision with masterful draftmanship, Rockwell illustrates universally accessible scenes that highlight his quintessentially American aesthetic.