Norman Rockwell’s Study for Triple Self Portrait (1960) realised $1.3m on May 3.
That’s a new record for a study in oil by Rockwell, showing that demand remains high after a series of high profile sales.
The work is a prime example of Rockwell’s playful approach to painting, albeit an approach he married with serious technical skill.
The full size Triple Self Portrait is in the collection of the Norman Rockwell Museum
He was very aware of his own place in the culture, as Heritage explains: “During the 1950s, as Abstract Expressionism claimed center stage in the art world, critics were dubbing Rockwell's paintings as commercial, conservative, and kitschy.
“The art historian Michele H. Bogart discusses the Triple Self-Portrait as underscoring Rockwell's identity struggle between ‘high artist’ in the European tradition-symbolized by the copies of self-portraits by Durer, Rembrandt, Picasso, and van Gogh tacked to the upper edge of the canvas-and ‘low artist’ for the American people-symbolized by the eagle with stars-and-stripes shield atop the mirror.”
It’s worth noting that those miniature copies of the old masters are executed almost flawlessly in each of their styles.
While he may have been written off as a purveyor of kitsch in the past, today Rockwell’s work is very much in demand.
Collectors appear to be re-evaluating his place in the tradition of American art.
In 2013, his Saying Grace made a Rockwell record $46m.
That’s a result comparable to some of the biggest names in art history.
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