Nate D. Sanders, Inc., an autograph, fine art and manuscript auctioneer in Los Angeles, sold Norman Rockwell‘s “Mr. Apple” in a March 2011 online auction for $33,722. The work has never before been publicly exhibited.
“Mr. Apple,” 13 inches by 17 1/2 inches, is a playful rendering of Magritte‘s famous “The Son of Man,” using a red apple rather than a green one and with the apple replacing the man’s head, rather than just obscuring it, as Magritte had done.
The painting is accompanied by impeccable provenance, indicating that Rockwell painted “Mr. Apple” in June of 1970 at his home in Stockbridge, Mass. Letters of provenance include a typed letter signed “Norman,” dated 11 June 1970 on his personal stationery, in part: “I must tell you that I got the two apples, and I haven’t eaten them, but I have put them in the refrigerator so they will keep bright and shiny … It will be fun doing such a unique painting.” (2) Autograph letter signed on his personal stationery, “Dear Mr. Blum – Here it is! I really enjoyed painting Mr. Apple. I sure hope you like it. The painting may still be wet when you get it. But do not varnish it for a couple of months. If you use a fine mastic varnish it will preserve it forever. Cordially, Norman Rockwell.”
The lot also included two other letters of provenance describing the reason for Rockwell completing the work (it was done as a label for United Vintners), and tracing its path of ownership.
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