A spectacular original by Norman Rockwell, the iconic wartime painter and illustrator for The Saturday Evening Post, was the highlight of the day during Sotheby’s American Art sale on November 22. Which painting commanded seven figures?

Norman Rockwell’s 1944 oil painting “Which One?” is perhaps more relevant than ever — perhaps adding to the spirited bidding for the painting during Sotheby’s American Art sale on Tuesday, November 22. The work appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post prior to the 1944 presidential election between incumbent Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Thomas Dewey.

Norman Rockwell, “Which One?,” 1944, oil on canvas, 37 x 29 in. (c) Sotheby’s 2016
Norman Rockwell, “Which One?,” 1944, oil on canvas, 37 x 29 in. (c) Sotheby’s 2016

The vertically formatted painting displays an elderly gentleman dressed in suit and tie, with an umbrella hooked on his arm. Standing between the green curtains of a voting booth, the man purposefully considers his next action: voting for President of the United States. The subject appears perplexed, unsure of which individual to choose as his next leader. The painting seems more pointed than ever during this election year as many of the nation’s voters likely felt similar feelings of apprehension and uncertainty. In the man’s right hand is the front page of the Cedar Rapids newspaper, which states more literally the gentleman’s thought process: Two photos, one of Roosevelt and Dewey under large bold letters asking “Which One?” No other figures occupy the painting, and the tight cropping of the picture highlights the subject’s moment of truth in his isolation.

With three telephone bidders in pursuit of the painting, auction organizers at Sotheby’s in New York City were expecting competitive bidding for the lovely original, which had estimates between $4 million and $6 million. The final hammer price exceeded expectations, and the painting was had for a total of $6,537,500. Three other originals by Rockwell brought a combined $3.5 million. Collectively, Rockwell earned a whopping $10 million on Tuesday.

Among other works offered during the sale were originals by Childe Hassam, Milton Avery, and Albert Bierstadt. To learn more, visit Sotheby’s.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.


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