Norman Rockwell was one of the most famous painters in American history, but his iconic works have a history of going missing. Now, the Associated Press reports that the FBI has recovered a Norman Rockwell painting stolen more than 40 years ago from a home in New Jersey.
The Norman Rockwell oil-on-canvas was known by several titles, including Lazybones, Taking a Break, and Boy Asleep with Hoe, and it originally appeared on the cover of the Sept. 6, 1919, edition of the Saturday Evening Post. The painting was stolen in 1976 during a break-in in a home in Cherry Hill, New Jersey. The owners of the painting are now deceased, but the couple’s daughter, Susan Murta, praised the FBI for tracing the piece after four decades. The details of how the painting was found have not been revealed.
The owner of the missing Norman Rockwell painting reportedly paid $75 for it in 1954 after accidentally damaging it with a pool cue. The recovered Rockwell piece is now estimated to be worth more than $1 million.
Last year, Philly Voice reported that the FBI search for the painting was still in full swing 40 years after the case was first opened. The report revealed that the Norman Rockwell original was among several items taken during a burglary at the home of Robert and Teresa Grant while their family was away on vacation to Ocean City, New Jersey.
This is not the first time a stolen Norman Rockwell painting has been recovered. In 2014, a private detective found the missing Sport, Rockwell’s painting of a fisherman wearing a yellow jacket and sitting in a rowboat. The illustration appeared on the April 1939 cover of The Saturday Evening Post. Sport was stolen from a Queens, N.Y., storage facility after being sold at an auction months earlier for just more than $1 million. According to USA Today, after a series of interviews, some “good old-fashioned police work,” and a few lucky breaks, private investigator Dean Golemis said he drove 500 miles to retrieve the stolen Norman Rockwell painting, which was still in its storage wrapping.
Even more incredible is the story behind one of Norman’s most famous works, Breaking Home Ties, which depicts a farmer sending his son off to college. According to the Norman Rockwell Museum website, the famous painting hung for years in the museum until it was discovered in 2006 to be a replica painted by artist Don Trachte in the 1970s. The original painting was found by his son behind a secret wall in Trachte’s home after he passed away.
Most of Norman Rockwell’s paintings were featured in the Saturday Evening Post, the country’s leading weekly periodical at the time. While critics in the art world didn’t always consider Norman to be a serious artist, instead labeling him an illustrator (a title that Rockwell had no problem with, considering he penned a 1960 autobiography called My Adventures as an Illustrator), he was a master in his field, producing over 4,000 works in a career that spanned nearly 60 years. Sadly, many of Rockwell’s original paintings were lost in a 1943 studio fire.
Some of Norman Rockwell’s most famous works include Rosie the Riveter (1943), The 4 Freedoms series (1943), Saying Grace (1951), and The Problem We All Live With (1963), which portrayed Ruby Bridges, a young African American girl who was escorted by U.S. marshals to an all-white elementary school for her first day of kindergarten. The iconic illustration appeared in Look magazine in 1960 and became a symbol for racial integration in the 1960s.
Take a look at the video below for more on how the FBI recovered the Norman Rockwell painting Lazybones.
[Featured Image by Joe Raedle/Getty Images]