1894-1978 | American
Oil on photographic paper
American illustrator Norman Rockwell celebrates the coin connoisseur in this charming oil. Displaying Rockwell’s remarkable talent for capturing the true character of his subjects, the work is a well-executed preliminary study for Rockwell’s 1970 commission for the Franklin Mint. Established in 1964, the Franklin Mint sought to offer collectibles such as rare coins and historical currencies to a growing group of numismatics collectors. From Rockwell, they commissioned two oil paintings to reproduce as engravings and a series of design drawings that could be made into collectible ingots. The venture proved remarkably lucrative for both Rockwell and the Mint, with The Collector becoming the most important and popular work from the commission.
This advanced color study of The Collector differs slightly from Rockwell's final version and the subsequent engravings. In the present example, the numismatist's desk features a higher level of detail, with more collectible coins on display than in the final version. However, while the final work includes a younger family member inspecting the coin with its owner, the present omits this figure, focusing on the numismatist and his dog, thus achieving a greater sense of quietude.
The numismatist himself is consistent between the two versions of the work, and he is a consummate example of the collector archetype. He carefully handles the coins in his collection, donning white gloves to inspect them in greater detail with his magnifying glass. Elegantly dressed with an expression of contentment, he appears to take pride in the breadth of his collection that is spread out before him. His dog appears as an eager apprentice, peering over the desk with a curious glint in his eyes. More painterly than Rockwell's final rendition of the scene, this work reveals the artist at his best in terms of capturing the atmosphere and personality of his charming subject.
Unarguably the preeminent American illustrator of the 20th century, Rockwell's images tapped into the nostalgia of the American people. For much of his career, his poignant paintings became the visual identity of The Saturday Evening Post, with 322 of his works featured on the cover, plus numerous others used for illustrations. Nearly all major magazines of the day called upon Rockwell for his outstanding compositions, including Literary Digest, Life, Country Gentleman, and Look. Rockwell's distinguished career earned him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, the highest honor bestowed upon an American civilian.
Paper: 12” high x 19 1/4” wide
Frame: 21” high x 18” wide
The Franklin Mint, Wawa, Pennsylvania
M.S. Rau, New Orleans