Walking to Church, the illustration above, is one of the many things that the family of the Saturday Evening Post, will be selling at auction as well as “Saying Grace,” & “The Gossips”
Of Rockwell’s 322 covers for The Post, the three images were particularly popular. “Saying Grace” — a crowded restaurant with a boy and an old woman bowing their heads in prayer — was considered Rockwell’s masterpiece, topping a readers’ poll in 1955. “The Gossips” was a finger-wagging montage of friends, neighbors and even the artist himself. “Walking to Church” was another timeless favorite.
Some scholars of American art predict that the sale of these paintings on Dec. 4 could become
given their caliber, celebrity and condition — the auction of the year in an area of the art market
that has not bounced back since the collapse of the world financial markets in 2008. Experts say
that two have a chance of topping the record price for Rockwell at auction, $15.4 million, which
was set in 2006 for “Breaking Home Ties,” an image of a fresh-faced boy leaving home for the first time.
“They are iconic images of 20th-century American culture, all three of them,” said Virginia M. Mecklenburg, chief curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, who organized a blockbuster Rockwell show there in 2010.
“Each one of these paintings is just as relevant now as when they were made,” she added.
For the sons of Kenneth J. Stuart, though, the story behind the sale is not so cozy.
Curtis Publishing, which owned The Saturday Evening Post, tried, unsuccessfully, to claim ownership of the paintings. (The company does have reproduction rights to the images on countless objects, including mugs and mouse pads, porcelains and playing cards.)