Rockwell's Keeping His Course leads Christie's at $218,500

Norman Rockwell's Keeping His Course (Exeter Grill) led bids in Christie's American Art auction yesterday (September 25) in New York.

Norman Rockwell Keeping his Course (Exeter Grill)
Rockwell created a series of illustrations for Barbour's sports fiction novels

The piece went to auction with a pre-sale estimate of $100,000-150,000, but soon passed this, achieving a 45.6% increase at $218,500.

The work was designed as an illustration for the 1918 book Keeping his Course by Ralph Henry Barbour. It depicts a student of Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire enjoying a slice of apple pie in the academy's canteen or "grill".

Ralph Henry Barbour created over 100 novels during his career, most of which were popular sports fiction for young boys. Rockwell worked closely with Barbour and his publishers to illustrate one such series of the author's works, including Keeping his Course, Hitting the Line, The Purple Pennant and The Lucky Seventh.

Following Keeping His Course was Rockwell's study for The Runaway, which saw a 72% increase on its $120,000 high estimate, selling for $206,500.

The Runaway stands as one of Rockwell's most iconic images of American life, using residents of his hometown of Stockbridge, Massachusetts as a basis for the characters. Like many of Rockwell's finest works, the finished piece was used as the cover for the Saturday Evening Post in 1958.

In total the auction realised $2.6m, with Christie's Jennifer Klaus commenting: "The sale of American Art attracted collectors of all levels, who were eager to bid on American works of art spanning a variety of genres, including impressionism, modernism, illustrations, and sculpture.

"Western paintings also did particularly well, with Edgar Alwin Payne's La Marque Lake, High Sierra selling for $80,500, doubling its pre-sale estimate."

Christie's will hold another American Art sale on November 28.

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