Norman Rockwell's Road Block will lead American art sale

Norman Rockwell's Road Block is set to be the highlight of an American art sale at Sotheby's.

The extraordinarily complex work shows a host of characters attempting to cajole a dog out from under a truck.

Norman Rockwell Road
Norman Rockwell painted Road Block from a photograph

It's expected to sell for around $4m-6m at Sotheby's New York on May 18.

The idea for the painting came from a story a friend told Rockwell about seeing a puppy sat in the middle of a road with a line of traffic backed up behind it.

Rockwell actually set up and photographed the scene in an alley in Los Angeles, a technique he used in most of his paintings.

He talked about the difficulties he had painting the work in a 1979 interview: "Why, oh, why do I paint such involved and complicated pictures?

"There are about twenty-five figures in this one, not counting the pigeons. My only excuse is that I wanted to paint this subject and I started to do the job with only ten people in it.

"Then, like Topsy, it 'just growed.' But here's the payoff.

"When I delivered it, the wonderful, kind and understanding art editor of The Post recognized the work I had put into it and gave me a substantial bonus over and above my regular price for a cover."

Rockwell's work is enormously popular, but has only recently started to set record sums at auction - with Saying Grace selling for $46m in 2013.

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