PAINTING FOR LITERARY DIGEST MAGAZINE CAPTURES ICONIC AMERICAN FAMILY SCENE
Few images in the American consciousness are as endearing as a mother tucking her children into bed at night.
Similarly, few artists have ever captivated the nation’s imagination as adeptly as America’s most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. “From his earliest advertisements to his patriotic World War II magazine covers, Rockwell was a virtuoso in his ability to capture the essence of American culture and a view of a more innocent time in our country’s history,” says Aviva Lehmann, vice present and director of American Art at Heritage Auctions in New York.
Between 1918 and 1923, The Literary Digest featured Rockwell artwork on its cover 47 times. Completed in 1921, Mother Tucking Children into Bed (Mother’s Little Angels), Rockwell’s most iconic and best-known Literary Digest cover, depicts Rockwell’s first wife, Irene O’Connor, as the model for the mother, tucking her rosy-cheeked cherubs into bed, safe and sound. The painting was gifted by the artist in 1921 to Rudolph E. Leppert, famed Literary Digest editor. It has remained in the family to this day.
The piece is being offered in Heritage’s American Art Signature® Auction, scheduled for July 1, 2020. It’s expected to realize at least $1.8 million. The sale marks the first time the piece has been offered to the public.
Within his magazine oeuvre, Rockwell’s covers for The Literary Digest are exceptional in their focus on girls and women, usually within a family context. Despite major advances in the women’s reform movement by the 1920s, symbolized by the liberated flapper, The Literary Digest, as a general-interest news periodical, appealed to a mainstream audience. “And Rockwell followed suit with his imagery,” Lehmann says.
“More than any other Literary Digest cover, and arguably any of his paintings,” Lehmann adds, “Mother Tucking Children into Bed celebrates the vision of moral or sentimental motherhood crafted during the Victorian period and flourishing well into the 20th century.”
This article appears in the Spring/Summer 2020 edition of The Intelligent Collector magazine. Click here to subscribe to the print edition.