A model and her Norman Rockwell meet again

The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, June 20, 2024

A model and her Norman Rockwell meet again
Norman Rockwell's “Bright Future for Banking." As a teen, Charlotte Sorenson modeled as the youth at center right. Sorenson recalled that Rockwell gave his models a Coca-Cola and typically paid $5 to $10 for a session that lasted about 20 minutes. “Many of them say, ‘I wish I hadn’t cashed the check,’” she said. Norman Rockwell via The New York Times.

by James Barron

NEW YORK (NYT NEWS SERVICE).- Charlotte Sorenson was riffling through a newspaper one morning in December when she recognized someone in a gallery advertisement for a Norman Rockwell painting that she had not seen in years: herself.

There she was, a teenager in a cluster of schoolmates in graduation-day caps and gowns. Rockwell had called the painting “Bright Future for Banking.”

Sorenson, who is 81 and lives in Boulder, Colorado, had posed for Rockwell when she was a 15-year-old high school sophomore in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the picture-postcard town in the Berkshires where he lived and worked from 1953 until his death in 1978. As the star illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, he was known for summoning his neighbors to his studio to be models — dozens over the years. They were the faces in the quintessentially American images that the public loved but critics disdained. Sometimes he supplied the accessories at his easel, long after his subjects had left his studio. But for “Bright Future,” Sorenson said, he had a cap and gown at the ready, even though he did not tell her what the painting would be about.

Unlike famous Rockwell paintings such as “The Problem We All Live With,” with its civil rights theme, or “The Runaway,” showing a police officer sitting at a lunch counter with a little boy who had run away from home, “Bright Future” had an unusual history. It was almost thrown out in the trash. The gallery owner selling the painting said it had been salvaged by a man walking down a Manhattan street in New York a few years after it had appeared in the magazine with which Rockwell was closely identified for nearly 50 years.

The gallery owner, William Rau of M.S. Rau Antiques in New Orleans, said he had acquired the painting from two brothers who had inherited it after their father’s death recently. (Now in their 60s and living in the New York area, they did not want to be identified or interviewed, he said.)

The story he said they had told sounded like a scene from a Rockwell painting: Their father, walking along a street in Manhattan, had watched as a janitor from an office building heaved trash containers toward the curb. The men’s father spotted the painting and asked if he could have it.

The original work, signed by Rockwell, ended up on the wall in the older son’s bedroom, Rau said. While Rau would not say how much he had paid for the painting, he said that the two sons had put it up for sale because neither son would buy the other’s share. Rau’s price for it is $885,000.

Rockwell’s paintings have climbed in value in the 2000s. “Saying Grace” (1951) sold for $46 million at Sotheby’s in 2013, more than double the presale estimate. That topped “Breaking Home Ties,” which had sold for $15.4 million at Sotheby’s in 2006. “The Gossips,” a montage of friends, neighbors and Rockwell himself, went for $8.45 million at the 2013 auction with “Saying Grace.” In 2017, Rockwell’s “Two Plumbers” brought $1.9 million.

Rockwell’s paintings told stories, although he left it to the viewer to fill in the details in images such as the one of the bride trying on a wedding dress or the one of the boy and his mother saying grace in a crowded restaurant. His paintings were immensely popular with The Saturday Evening Post’s subscribers, but reviewers complained that they were treacly. After Rockwell painted his series “The Four Freedoms,” a Time magazine review in 1943 said that he “would probably be incapable of portraying a really evil human being, or even a really complex one — perhaps even a real one.”

The people he painted were real, though. Like Sorenson in “Bright Future,” many lived in or near Stockbridge. William J. Obanhein, the police chief in Stockbridge, posed for Rockwell several times, although he was better known as “Officer Obie” in Arlo Guthrie’s Vietnam-era ballad “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree” because he had arrested Guthrie for littering.

“People who were Rockwell’s models have a sense of a little bit of celebrity,” said Stephanie Plunkett, deputy director and chief curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in that town. “Some of them, especially if they were children, didn’t recognize what was being asked of them. It wasn’t until they were adults that they realized that what they had done was so interesting and important.”

That applied to Sorenson.

“It was quite common to be sitting somewhere or walking somewhere, and he would spot you,” she said, “and in his mind he had some painting that he was thinking of, so he would ask you or send somebody to ask if you would come up to his studio.”

Rockwell’s studio on Main Street had a plate-glass window and was nicely situated for people-watching. Sorenson remembers that it was across the street from one important local hub, the drugstore, and next to another, the Western Union office.

“He thought of himself as a movie director casting a role,” Plunkett said. “He would sometimes test four or five people for one role in a painting. What that really meant was eventually one would be chosen and the rest would be on the cutting-room floor, so to speak, though he would sometimes use different components of each person. He might actually use a different face on a different body.”

Sorenson believes that the request from Rockwell came in 1954, when she was in the 10th grade at the Stockbridge Plains School. After classes let out for the day, she said, “the fun thing was to walk down the street and go to the drugstore. You’d go in and you’d either sit in a booth and order a root beer float or sit on a stool at the counter on one of those wonderful stools that twirled around.”

She does not remember whom Rockwell sent to invite her to go across the street to his studio. Nor does she remember much about the modeling session. “He must have put that hat on my head and taken pictures,” she said. “And then I probably went back to twirling on the stool in the drugstore and sipping on my root beer float, and I didn’t think anything more of it.”

Plunkett, of the Rockwell museum, filled in some details about his encounters with potential subjects. “He had a studio assistant taking the actual photographs,” she said. “He brought each person into the studio individually. He would very succinctly explain to them what the piece was and what kind of expression he was looking for. He would be right there coaching them. When he got the expression he wanted, he would tell the photographer to take the shot.”

She said he gave his models a Coca-Cola and paid them, typically $5 to $10 for a session that lasted about 20 minutes. “Many of them say, ‘I wish I hadn’t cashed the check,’” she said. That fee was more than Rockwell’s son Peter, who died last year at 83, said he had received. “I got paid $1 an hour, and people outside the family got $5, which I thought was terribly unfair,” he said in 1993.

Rockwell painted more than 300 covers for The Saturday Evening Post. But “Bright Future” was painted for an advertisement for a bank, although it appeared in the magazine in 1955. “He used more female models and female subjects in advertisements, which tended to represent a wider cross-section of America — the Saturday Evening Post covers tended to be more male,” said Deborah Solomon, an occasional New York Times contributor and author of “American Mirror: The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell” (2013). “It was in the commercial interests of most companies to include images of women in their advertisements, which explains why Rockwell’s most vivid images of girlhood and womanhood are probably those that he drew for advertisements for Crest toothpaste, Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance.”

Sorenson said she posed alone, but in the painting, she was flanked by schoolmates — a girl who was nicknamed “Carrots” because of her red hair and two boys named Norman. But she felt a sense of disappointment when she saw the painting in The Saturday Evening Post — not on the cover, but inside, in the bank ad.

“It wasn’t one of his major exciting pictures like the runaway with the cop,” she said. “I was never that excited by it. I think it’s kind of boring.”

© 2021 The New York Times Company

Today's News

March 10, 2021

The first monographic exhibition on Marinus van Reymerswale opens in Madrid

Banksy's Game Changer to be sold at auction: Proceeds will benefit the NHS

ARTBnk's Richard Schulman: My Day with Willem de Kooning

A model and her Norman Rockwell meet again

Syrian heritage suffered 'cultural apocalypse'

Smithsonian American Art Museum receives major gift of extraordinary Amish quilts

Christie's Post-War and Contemporary Art Sale Week kicks off with Post-War to Present

U.S. lawmakers suggest 25 movies about latinos to the National Film Registry

Toledo Museum of Art approves new strategic plan prioritizing belonging and quality of experience

Galerie Barbara Thumm announces global representation of the estate of Teresa Burga

Six artists shortlisted for Trafalgar Square's iconic Fourth Plinth

Scottish art sells best in Scotland

Amélie Simier appointed director of Musée Rodin

Egyptian Billy Elliot sets new bar for Middle Eastern ballet

Ageing DR Congo artists keep music of the miners alive

Gap in history: Afghans recall Taliban's destruction of famed Buddha statues

Rare illustrated books by Andy Warhol to be offered at Bonhams

Whyte's to offer Irish & International art

William Kentridge leads Bonhams Post-War & Contemporary Art sale in London

Pirelli HangarBicocca announces Bubbles, a new digital project

Christie's announces highlights included in the 'Watches Online: New York' sale

New book from Taschen offers an unprecedented insight into Basquiat's art and work

Norton Juster, who wrote 'The Phantom Tollbooth,' dies at 91

Hollywood directors nominate two women for top prize in historic first

Make quick cash with Slot Joker338

Contemporary Art Using Coffee

How Pets Help You Get Inspiration

Study and Art: University Museums

The Popularity Rate of Contemporary Art Among Students

How to score high in the Math assignment

Mark Rothko: I Don't Paint Objects, I Paint Ideas

Creating a Design that is Dynamic like the Desert

What Investments Can Assist You in Earning in 2021?

How To Choose A Right Brand Design Strategy

Museums, Exhibits, Artists, Milestones, Digital Art, Architecture, Photography,
Photographers, Special Photos, Special Reports, Featured Stories, Auctions, Art Fairs,
Anecdotes, Art Quiz, Education, Mythology, 3D Images, Last Week, .


Ignacio Villarreal
(1941 - 2019)
Editor & Publisher: Jose Villarreal
Art Director: Juan José Sepúlveda Ramírez
Writer: Ofelia Zurbia Betancourt

Truck Accident Attorneys
Accident Attorneys

Royalville Communications, Inc

ignaciovillarreal.org juncodelavega.com facundocabral-elfinal.org
Founder's Site. Hommage
to a Mexican poet.

The First Art Newspaper on the Net. The Best Versions Of Ave Maria Song Junco de la Vega Site Ignacio Villarreal Site Parroquia Natividad del Señor
Tell a Friend
Dear User, please complete the form below in order to recommend the Artdaily newsletter to someone you know.
Please complete all fields marked *.
Sending Mail
Sending Successful