Heritage Auctions, Dallas, TX, 2014
Private collection, Texas
Four Seasons, Brown & Bigelow Co., 1951: calendar.
Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Vol. I, L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA, 1986: p. 310-11, no. A128a, completed painting illustrated.
Norman Rockwell: Artist and Illustrator, Thomas S. Buechner, Harry N. Abrams, New York, NY, 1970: Image 448.
Beginning in 1947, Norman Rockwell illustrated annual editions of Four Seasons, a popular series of calendars for the Brown & Bigelow company. The calendars featured four images, with three months of the year below each of the pictures. Rockwell had been creating artwork for an annual Boy Scouts of America calendar since 1925, so the calendar concept was not a stretch for the artist. After its introduction, the Four Seasons series was a huge hit and it continued for 17 years. For the 1951 calendar, Rockwell discovered his subjects during a chance trip two years earlier. “In the winter of 1949, Norman Rockwell and his family temporarily resided in Southern California, where he taught courses at the Los Angeles County Art Institute,” writes Stephanie Plunkett, deputy director and chief curator at the Norman Rockwell Museum. “He discovered the models for this series nearby, roughhousing in a schoolyard football game. For a modest sum, the boys consented to bring their basketball, baseball, golf, and football equipment over to the Institute, where they enthusiastically posed for Rockwell and his photographer.”
Oh Yeah, which Plunkett says is likely an oil study for the final calendar, originally appeared above January, February and March in the printed calendar for the Minnesota-based company. Other images included the same four boys in different scenes, all with less-than-stellar results as they struggled at the various sports. The front page of the calendar contained a message from the artist: “In every city, village or crossroads…wherever Americans congregate to live, to think, to learn, to worship—there you’ll find the spirit of competition. Just such friendly rivalry and fair-play has made America great. It is this spirit that manifests itself in the spontaneous athletic contests engaged in by youth of our land. In this, the fourth edition of the Four Seasons Calendar, I’ve tried to capture some of that spirit…the eager, hard-playing youngsters in the winter’s first game of basketball—the all-important ‘choosing up sides’ in the spring sandlot game—the never-counted wicked slices that characterized a summer golf match—the skinned knees and sore muscles in that trick football play that didn’t click. To me, these active, energetic kids of ours, playing these sports they love so much, take a vital part in our American heritage of freedom and individual initiative. They’re our investment in our country—in our future!”
Rockwell had a long career, and each decade was unique, but a very strong case can be made that the 1950s was his best decade with a vast stretch of smashing images, a number of them for the Saturday Evening Post, the beloved publication for which he had an astonishing 323 covers. Works from the decade, many of which require no description for fans of the artist, include Trumpet Practice, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, Losing the Game (Cheerleaders), The Shiner (The Young Lady with the Shiner), Walking to Church, Breaking Home Ties and The Rookie. 1951 was an especially strong year with works such as Two Plumbers, in which two overall-clad workers sample a customer’s perfume; Saying Grace, the artist’s great masterpiece of a grandmother and her grandson praying in a bustling restaurant, a work that sold at auction for $46 million in 2013; and also Oh Yeah and its accompanying sports images.
Phone: (480) 945-0225
Please note that the first unframed photo is most accurate for color. Framed photographs are to show the frame and are not color corrected to the painting.
*The Condition Reports are for guidance only and should not be relied upon as statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty, or assumption of liability by Scottsdale Art Auction. Scottsdale Art Auction strongly encourages in-person inspection of items by the bidder. All lots offered are sold “AS IS”. Please refer to item two in our terms and conditions for further information.