Lot 29
  • 29

NORMAN ROCKWELL | Little Boy Writing Letter

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
1,700,000 USD
bidding is closed


  • Norman Rockwell
  • Little Boy Writing Letter
  • signed Norman/Rockwell (lower right)
  • oil on canvas


Curtis Publishing Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1920
Dr. H.L. Houghton, Fort Worth, Texas
Mrs. Hulda Houghton, Fort Worth, Texas (his wife, by descent)
Thomas C. Potts, 1964 (her son, by descent)
Private collection (sold: Sotheby's, New York, December 1, 1988, lot 327)
Terry Dintenfass, Inc., New York
Tableau Fine Art Group, Inc., Florida
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 1996


The Saturday Evening Post, January 17, 1920, cover illustration (©SEPS licensed by Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. All rights reserved)
Thomas Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist & Illustrator, New York, 1970, illustrated fig. 128, p. 80
Christopher Finch, Norman Rockwell's America, New York, 1975, illustrated pp. 75, 272 (as Love Letters)
Dr. Donald Stoltz and Marshall L. Stoltz, Norman Rockwell and ‘The Saturday Evening Post:’ May 1916-July 1928, vol. I, New York, 1976, p. 53, illustrated p. 54
Mary Moline, Norman Rockwell Encyclopedia, Indianapolis, Indiana, 1979, illustrated fig. I-135, p. 38 (as Pen Pals or Love Letters)
Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. I, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, no. C215, p. 83, illustrated p. 82
Jan Cohn, Covers of “The Saturday Evening Post:" Seventy Years of Outstanding Illustration from America’s Favorite Magazine, New York, 1995, illustrated p. 96

Catalogue Note

Throughout the course of his long and prolific career, Norman Rockwell developed a significant and unique partnership with The Saturday Evening Post, executing 321 cover illustrations for the publication over a forty-seven year period. These commissions allowed Rockwell’s distinctive aesthetic to reach millions of Americans on a daily basis, which would ultimately become integral to the country’s vision of itself, its history and its values. By presenting his audience with wholesome, humorous and idealistic images of their own lives, Rockwell earned himself a reputation as one of the most celebrated illustrators of the twentieth century. Appearing on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post on January 17, 1920, Little Boy Writing Letter exemplifies the charm, humor and nostalgia that imbues Rockwell’s best and most beloved images. The scene depicts a young, disheveled boy with a furrowed brow furiously writing a love letter to his “sweetheart.” The boy’s level of focus is palpable as he strives to compose the perfect letter, discarding the various failed notes on the ground. His loyal dog rests his head on the boy’s knee as if to offer his encouragement. The work features one of Rockwell’s favorite models, Eddy Carson, who posed for him on multiple occasions. In a letter to Dr. H.L. Houghton, the first owner of Little Boy Writing Letter, the artist wrote, “There is a real original for the boy and I often use him. His name is Eddy Carlson and he is a fine little model. You might be glad to know that I always use real persons for every picture I paint. The idea of the red headed boy picture was suggested to me one day when one of the little boys I use for a model, was in my studio trying to write a letter to his girl. He presented much the same picture as the one I painted, only I made it a country boy with country surroundings.”

Painted during the early period of Rockwell’s career, Little Boy Writing Letter demonstrates the more expressive and painterly manner of execution that characterizes his works from the 1920s and early 1930s, a quality Rockwell left behind as—encouraged by a younger generation of artist and illustrators—he incorporated photography into his technical process. Even without the use of photography, Rockwell’s ability to achieve near perfect realism is on full display here with the myriad of rich textures he captures in elements such as the dog’s fur and boy’s red corduroy jacket. Ultimately, these delightful details all serve to support the artist’s intended narrative, effortlessly capturing the notion of young love.