Tomorrow starting at 10 a.m. ET, Sotheby’s New York will drop the gavel on an auction of “American Art.” A number of Norman Rockwell pieces will be offered for purchase including “Willie Gillis in Convoy.”
The illustration, which had been sitting in storage since 2001 after previously being displayed in the office of the principal at Gardner High School in Gardner, Massachusetts, is expected to fetch around $2 million. The school and city plan to use the raised funds to endow a non-profit foundation. From the notes for tomorrow’s Lot #53:
When “Willie Gillis in Convoy” was submitted for review, Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post editors praised it for the painterly qualities it displayed, but it ultimately never appeared on the cover of the publication. The work remained in Rockwell’s Arlington studio until 1951, when F. Earl Williams, the principal of Gardner High School, paid Rockwell a visit…
Rockwell said he had become so busy in recent years that he no longer had time to make a trip to town to mail a letter. Seeing the unsent envelope to which Rockwell was referring, Williams offered to mail the letter himself. This act of kindness prompted the artist to offer a tour of his studio, where he showed Williams “Willie Gillis in Convoy.”
According the school’s history, Rockwell asked Williams what he thought of the painting as they stood in front of it. His response — unfortunately unknown today — surprised Rockwell, who felt he had never before heard someone perfectly understand what he was trying to express with the work. As a gesture of gratitude, Rockwell donated the painting to Gardner High School, where it hung in the principal’s office for many years.
Inexplicably, we found no mention of the Rockwell auction in Gardner High School’s News section. Hopefully, they’ll find the time to share an item post-auction.
Update (May 22):
The Rockwell illustration sold for $2.285 million.