Appraisal Video: (5:21)
Paintings & Drawings
APPRAISER: Now, when I saw you approaching me at the paintings table with this chair, I thought possibly you had been misdirected, but it seems there was a reason.
GUEST: The chair kind of goes with the collection because the chair belonged to Norman Rockwell and the paintings are by Norman Rockwell.
APPRAISER: And then you produced this little painting here inscribed, "My best wishes to Chicky Pelham, from Norman Rockwell." And she looks somewhat familiar. (laughs)
GUEST: Yeah, I was supposed to be on the cover of the Kellogg's Cornflakes box, and so Norman did two paintings, my brother and myself, and he sent them out to Kellogg's. And they didn't choose them because they said we were kind of too pretty, that they wanted more wholesome, all-American looking kids. They wanted red hair and freckles. So they sent the paintings back to Norman...
GUEST: and he gave them to my dad because my dad was his photographer.
APPRAISER: You look very wholesome there. I'm sorry you didn't make the cut. (laughs) And you mentioned your father was a photographer, and here we see this is you and the artist, is that correct?
GUEST: Yes, that's me and Norman, yeah.
APPRAISER: And you did other modeling?
GUEST: Yes, I was the baby in "The Babysitter" painting. My mom told me many years later how bad she felt because they had to stick my feet with pins to make me cry, and she just thought that was wrong, but they couldn't figure out any other way to make me cry, I guess. Then I posed for some Christmas cards, and then the DuMont television ad.
APPRAISER: What was it like being a model for Norman Rockwell?
GUEST: It was wonderful. I was small, and I went there so often that I just became very familiar with his studio, and he had a Coke machine in his back room because he loved Coca-Cola. So we used to be able to go back and grab a Coke any time we wanted, and we weren't allowed to drink soda in my home, only on special occasions. So when I was modeling, it was like, "Okay, this is great." You know, I can get a Coke, and he was very kind, and he was soft-spoken, but he was very detailed in the way he wanted you to sit. And so you had to sit very still once he got you into a position.
GUEST: And then the photograph would be taken. But he took many, many photographs. For instance for this sitting, I sat over 15 hours. But it wasn't constant. There would be breaks in between, but it was a long day.
APPRAISER: Now, there's a little letter that your father received from the artist.
GUEST: Yes, right.
APPRAISER: Can you maybe read what that says for us?
GUEST: Sure-- it says, "Dear Gene, at long last, "everything in connection with the DuMont television film "are settled, and enclosed is a check for $15.50 "to reimburse your daughter for her long session of posing. "Give her my thanks for helping me out. Sincerely, Norman."
APPRAISER: Have you any thoughts about what the value of these pieces might be?
GUEST: About 30 years ago I acquired the painting, and at that time I had it appraised. And I think they said it was worth about maybe $35,000.
GUEST: Which I think back then was most likely an insurance figure.
APPRAISER: Probably, yeah.
GUEST: I don't know.
APPRAISER: I would say for insurance, you're probably looking at somewhere in the sort of $80,000-$90,000 range.
APPRAISER: The record is now around about $15 million.
APPRAISER: So people are much less snooty about the whole illustration market and about Rockwell in particular. He's always been popular with the public. Everybody seems to love Rockwell. But as far as the art critics went, not so much. But there has been a reappraisal, a reassessment of his work and his place in the American art canon. And his reputation is higher than ever before, I think. And that's been reflected in the prices paid at auction.
APPRAISER: And this piece here is a reproduction print, and there's no intrinsic value to that. The letter with it adds value to it. I would think probably a few hundred dollars for a signed letter from Rockwell. The chair, now how did you come by the chair?
GUEST: My dad was always bringing stuff home that Norman was throwing out. My dad was a collector. I mean, he never threw anything away. And so he arrived home with that one day, and the seat was broken, and he just stuffed pillows in it, and he painted in that chair for probably the rest of his life, although he did have the seat repaired finally, yeah.
APPRAISER: And here, interestingly, there's the chair there, and here it is again here in one of his best-known works.
GUEST: Yeah, right.
APPRAISER: How much do you think the chair might be worth?
GUEST: I have no idea.
APPRAISER: Well, candidly, nor do I. So I spoke to my fellow appraisers in the collectibles area, and they told me it would make at least $50,000.
GUEST: You are kidding. Oh, my goodness.
APPRAISER: Well, it's pretty iconic really, from this painting. And to think of the amazing paintings that he did when he was sitting in this chair.
GUEST: Oh, I thought maybe a couple of thousand dollars.
APPRAISER: A little bit more, apparently.
GUEST: Oh, my gosh.