As part of its American Art sale, auction house Christie’s is selling another important Norman Rockwell painting featuring a piano. Its full title is Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo (“‘Oh Lord,’ Jeff said prayerfully, ‘I wish Alice was here. Oh, I wish she could hear this…'”) (The Virtuoso), and its estimated sale price is $1.2million – $1.8million.
Norman Rockwell (1874-1978) was an American artist and illustrator who came to fame through his work for The Saturday Evening Post magazine—an influential title, aimed at the American middle-class, and published from 1821 to this day.
During his life, Rockwell produced over 4,000 artworks and contributed to the Post magazine for some 50 years. His work ranks alongside such other 20th century American greats as Hopper, Pollock, Warhol, Rothko, Lichenstein and Basquiat.
Rockwell’s works regularly sell for over a million dollars. In 2013 his painting “Saying Grace” sold for $46million.
A Short Story Illustration
Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo was commissioned by The Saturday Evening Post as an illustration for an Edmund Ware short story. It appeared in the May 27th, 1939 issue, although unlike many of Rockwell’s works, it didn’t feature on the front cover.
Ware’s fictional story is about the eponymous Jeff Raleigh who is on a mission to find the perfect piano to give to his wife Alice on her birthday. Raleigh acknowledges he doesn’t know much about pianos and enlists the help of local music professor Andrew Crawford, who happens to have a famous Russian pianist, Jan Ivan Sabinsky staying with him. The three men descend upon a local piano warehouse and proceed to try out the various instruments.
The painting captures the moment when…
“Sabinsky exalted the room with the difficult cadenza section of Tchaikovsky’s B Flat Minor Concerto. Jeff Raleigh leaned entranced against a wall, almost weeping in the great hunger and the overwhelming sense of beauty with which music sometimes fills the souls of listeners who cannot read or play a note. ‘Oh Lord, he said prayerfully, ‘I wish Alice was here. Oh, I wish she could hear this.’”E. Ware, “Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo,” The Saturday Evening Post, May 27, 1939, p. 108
The painting has Sabinsky at the piano, Raleigh to his left, head in hands—awestruck, and Crawford, with pipe, peering inquisitively over Raleigh’s shoulder.
Rockwell often featured musical instruments in his works. The Piano Tuner, a cover illustration again for The Saturday Evening Post, made $2.7million at auction in 2018.
Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo is billed as the highlight of this Christie’s American Art sale
Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo (“‘Oh Lord,’ Jeff said prayerfully, ‘I wish Alice was here. Oh, I wish she could hear this…'”) (The Virtuoso) is an oil-on-canvas work painted in 1939 and signed Norman / Rockwell (lower right).
The painting measures 28-3/4 x 22-3/4 in (73 x 57.8 cm).
Viewing takes place at Christie’s, 20 Rockefeller Center, New York on 15, 16, 17 May 2021. Reservations recommended.
The sale is a live auction and takes place on 18 May 2021 (from 10.00am). Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo is Lot 217. More details can be found on the Christie’s website.
Jeff Raleigh’s Piano Solo sold for $2,910,000 including buyer’s premium