National Press Club

Rockwell painting sold by the Club now on exhibit at Norman Rockwell Museum

October 6, 2016 | By Jesse Rifkin | jesserifkin01@gmail.com

An iconic Norman Rockwell painting formerly owned by the National Press Club and sold last year for more than $10 million is now on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts.

The display, apparently not actively publicized by the museum, was recently discovered accidentally by Club member Michael Freedman.

“I turned a corner inside the museum and there it was, right in front of me. I did a classic double take because I couldn't believe my eyes!” said Freedman, an adjunct professorial lecturer on media history at George Washington University. He was browsing the museum in Stockbridge, Mass., after visiting friends in nearby Lenox.

“My biggest concern was that the Rockwell would be acquired by someone overseas and would leave the country forever. Was I surprised to see it? That would be an understatement. I was surprised, astonished and thrilled!” Freedman said. “It literally took my breath away when I turned that corner.”

John Hughes, an editor for Bloomberg News First Word and former Club president who led the organization when the painting was sold, noted that the artwork has come full circle.

“I thought, 'What goes around comes around.' When we were contemplating the future of the painting, we had it at the Rockwell Museum for safekeeping. Now, over $10 million later, the painting is back at the same location -- the Rockwell Museum -- being enjoyed by the public once again,” Hughes said.

“Norman Rockwell Visits A Country Editor,” by the painter known for capturing Americana, depicts an old-school press room of the Monroe County Appeal newspaper in Monroe, Missouri. Editors are furiously typing on typewriters, paper boys rush about, and a man seated in the corner reads that morning’s edition.

It originally appeared inside the Saturday Evening Post magazine on May 25, 1946. (Although Rockwell painted 323 covers for the magazine, this painting did not receive the cover honor that week, which went instead to the John Atherton painting “Dry Dock.”)

The piece had come into the Club’s possession by 1962 as a gift from Rockwell himself and for decades hung outside The Reliable Source.

The painting sold at Christie’s last November for over $10 million at auction.

About 70 percent of the proceeds went to the Club and 30 percent to the National Press Club Journalism Institute, the Club's nonprofit arm that sponsors professional development programs, advocates for press freedom and funds scholarships.

Jeremy Clowe, manager of media services at the Norman Rockwell Museum, was tight-lipped about the acquisition, revealing no clues about the buyer’s identity, how the museum recently obtained the painting or how long the piece will remain on display.

“I have checked with our curatorial department and, unfortunately, cannot disclose any of this information as it is confidential,” Clowe said. “Our visitors have been enjoying the painting, which is a beautiful example of Norman Rockwell’s work.” (Last year, Clowe told The Washington Post that the museum would have liked to acquire the painting permanently, but “we’ve been outpriced in the market.”)

Freedman is happy that the painting is available for public viewing rather than solely in private ownership.

“I was among those who would have loved to see the Club retain the Rockwell," he said. "It gave me a great sense of joy to know it is now in the hands of someone who understands that it belongs -- at least some of the time -- on public display. It is a true American treasure and seeing it again gave me a sense of positive closure.”