Norman Rockwell ’s “Tough Call,” an original study for his iconic cover for the Saturday Evening Post has sold for a staggering $1.6 million at an auction of high-end sports memorabilia held by Heritage Auctions in Dallas. The 16-inch by 15-inch painting was discovered hanging in Austin, Texas, and considered by the owner nothing more than an inexpensive print. It was expected to sell for around $300,000 but instead realised more than five times pre-auction estimates, once again breaking the record for any Rockwell study.
The original painting for “Tough Call” was published as a 1949 Saturday Evening Post cover
“It is remarkable to still discover such an important Norman Rockwell original artwork after so many years,” said Chris Ivy, director of Sports Memorabilia at Heritage Auctions. “The art community and sports fans all over the world owe thanks to Beans Reardon’s family for preserving this piece of Americana for future generations despite not quite understanding what they had.”
The original painting for “Tough Call” was published as a 1949 Saturday Evening Post cover and became an instant classic of American illustration art. Rockwell’s study for the piece (a preliminary work that guided the master’s hand) was gifted to umpire Beans Reardon.
Auction house experts realized the work, signed by Rockwell, was much more than a simple print of the famous work. Close inspection showed it was an original oil on paper study for one of Rockwell’s most famous paintings.
“The Rockwell discovery is a wonderful story and the auction price exceeded all expectations,” added Chris Ivy, director of Sports Auctions at Heritage.
This is the second Rockwell study sold in Dallas recently, as Heritage Rockwell’s study for “Triple Self Portrait” commanded over $1.3 million just months ago by Heritage Auctions, itself more than tripling any previous record for a Rockwell study.
Without thinking too much about it in specific terms, I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. — Norman Rockwell
Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.