In the summer of 2003, the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge, Massachusetts opened its doors to an exhibition of Rockwell’s works produced during the time the artist lived in Arlington, Vermont. Among the works was the painting entitled, Breaking Home Ties. But standing before it, the artist and museum patron, John Howard Sanden had an overwhelming feeling that this was not at all the original ~ it was a reproduction (a fake!)
Best said by Sanden, “As a devoted fan of the work of Norman Rockwell, and an avid enthusiast of the Norman Rockwell Museum, I immediately wrote the first of what would eventually be a total of seven letters to the Museum’s administration, asking—as a concerned Museum member and booster—for clarification. How could the painting be termed a “restoration” when literally every square inch of the painting was entirely new. Twice I received notes from lower-level staffers, assuring me that my inquiries would be responded to by the Museum director. No such response has been forthcoming.”
John Howard Sanden was correct, as he continues….. “The mystery at the Norman Rockwell Museum had been solved. On April 6, 2006, the New York Times, in a front-page story, announced that the original of Rockwell’s Breaking Home Ties had been discovered in an unoccupied house in Vermont, hidden behind a false wall. The original painting in good condition, and placed on exhibit at the museum, alongside the fake. I can report that the museum very graciously contacted us at once, invited Elizabeth and me to visit the museum to see the newly-discovered painting, and to lunch with the museum’s director.”
Sanden, who is one of the nation’s leading portrait artists, will speak to this discovery, along with a slideshow presentation, on Friday, December 13th at the historic Salmagundi Club in Greenwich Village. Included in Sanden’s very impressive resume is his twenty-five years as a lecturer on portraiture at The Art Students League of New York. In 1994, Sanden received the John Singer Sargent Medal for Lifetime Achievement from the American Society of Portrait artists, and in 2005 he received the Founders’ Gold Medal from the Portrait Society of America. His official portraits of President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura Bush were unveiled at the White House on May 31, 2012. In addition, he has written five books on portrait painting.
We also came to learn that he was one of the artistic/eclectic and very talented group of artist’s who lived above Carnegie Hall. History remembers fondly the magical days of artists’ studios ~ 170 creative spaces in the 1950s. Forced to move in 2010 were such notable artists, dancers, filmmakers, photographers as Evitta Sherman, Bill Cunningham, Josef Astor, Bettina Cirone, and John Howard Sanden, to name a few.
We caught up with Josef Astor at an exhibition for Editta Sherman at The New York Historical Society in 2017, where we were delighted to watch his documentary film ‘Lost Bohemia’ ~ about his friends and neighbors inside this artistic enclave.
Sanden also maintained a live/work apartment at the well-known 130 West 57th Street, home to such notables as novelist William Dean Howells, artist Childe Hassam, Joseph Heller, the Van Dorens, and ~ the duplex apartments 11B-12B occupied by the film and Broadway actor Jose Ferrer until he left, and John Howard Sanden and his wife Elizabeth made it their home.
John Howard Sanden: ‘The Norman Rockwell Mystery’ slide-screen presentation will be held on Friday, December 13th from 7-9pm at The Salmagundi Club, 47 Fifth Avenue, between 11th/12th Streets in Greenwich Village. Follow the Event on Facebook.
While you’re there, enjoy The Annual Thumb Box Exhibition and Sale on two floors of the Club.