It may not be a Pulitzer contender, but one picture made a sizable contribution to journalism Thursday when it fetched more than $10 million at auction.
“Norman Rockwell Visits a Country Editor,” an idyllic painting by Norman Rockwell, was sold to an anonymous bidder during an auction held by Christie’s in New York City. The National Press Club, which owned the painting, plans to spend the proceeds on expanding “a robust program of education and training for journalists,” according to a press release from the club:
“We’re gratified that this bucolic portrayal of a small-town newspaper newsroom from the mid-20th century has lived up to its estimated value,” said John Hughes, President of The National Press Club. “The impact of the Club’s stewardship of this great work will pay dividends far beyond what the artist might have imagined.”
After it was given to the National Press Club in the early 1960s, the painting hung outside the Reliable Source, an eatery on the 14th floor of the club’s building. It was transferred to the National Press Club Journalism Institute in 1988. When the painting came back to the club after a stint at the Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts last year, officials at the club worried they might not have the resources to keep it secure. So, they decided to sell.
The country editor who inspired Rockwell’s painting is Jack Blanton, who worked at the Monroe County Appeal in Paris, Mo., according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. He was a 50-year veteran of the newspaper business who worked until he died at the age of 85 in 1955.
The bidding war for the painting was intense, with two executives at Christie’s outbidding each other by $100,000 increments “for nearly five full minutes,” according to the press club:
The price was within Christie’s estimate of $10 million to $15 million, though Club members who had gathered to watch the auction got concerned when bidding temporarily stopped at $5 million before resuming its upward climb.
“When it cleared $9 million people whooped. When it went over $10 million they went crazy.” Club Manager Bill McCarren said.