Norman Rockwell, “Two Plumbers,” 1951, oil on canvas, 39 1/4 x 37 inches

For the second season running, a painting by Norman Rockwell commanded the top price during American Art week at Sotheby’s New York. Which of the artist’s iconic artworks stole the show?

Norman Rockwell’s “Two Plumbers,” painted in 1951, is a sparkling example of the artist’s unrivaled ability to depict everyday life in America with an entertaining dose of humor as well. Two men in their overalls, with tools in hand, stand together in what’s obviously a female’s bedroom. Just beyond the two is a quite ornate — and pink — vanity. Peering up at the two playful workers is a small dog, toward the bottom right corner of the canvas. Of course, the dog wears a gigantic pink bow on her back. Quite humorously, one of the plumbers has helped himself to one of the lady’s perfumes and is spraying a generous quantity into the face of his companion, who recoils with squinted eyes and sarcastic grin.

I was born in 1987, but I can’t help but smile at this mid-century masterpiece. The lightheartedness and technical brilliance of the painting were definitely on the minds of two spirited phone bidders yesterday, May 24, who jostled for over seven minutes at Sotheby’s New York in hopes of making it their own. When the hammer came down, the price had reached $14,975,000. Even more eye-popping is the fact that this painting was last sold in May 1996 at Sotheby’s — for $882,500, a world auction record at the time. Not a bad investment.

Auction estimates were between $5 million and $7 million.

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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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.



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