Lowy, Heritage, and the Fabulous Adventures of Norman Rockwell’s early painting,“Lazy Bones.”

Every painting that comes to Lowy has a story, but we think the tale of this long-lost Norman Rockwell is particularly engaging!

 

In 1919, when artist and illustrator Norman Rockwell was twenty-five- years old and starting out on his legendary career, he painted a whimsical cover for The Saturday Evening Post. “Lazy Bones” depicted a chubby adolescent boy playing hooky from his gardening chores -- his eyes closed, his mouth slack, his faithful dog asleep on his thigh, and his straw hat and hoe tossed aside while he naps.

 

The painting (not considered valuable at the time) hung in a New Jersey man’s recreation room…until the fateful day in the early 1950s when Robert Grant came over to play pool. Grant inadvertently tore the Rockwell with his cue stick and ended up paying his friend between $50 and $100 dollars for the damaged painting, which he happily hung in his home.

“Lazy Bones” became a Grant family treasure, but the sleeping adolescent’s adventures were far from over. In 1976, burglars broke into the house and stole a television, a coin collection, and the Rockwell. They left no clues and the Grants despaired at ever finding their beloved painting.

 

Forty years later, the Grants told their story to an FBI agent who specialized in art theft. The agency issued a press release on the anniversary of the robbery, and it caught the attention of an antiques dealer who had what he thought was a damaged Rockwell reproduction hanging in his kitchen. He delivered “Lazy Bones” to the FBI and, miraculously, the long-lost painting was reunited with the Grant family. They knew it was their painting when they saw the pool cue hole that had never been repaired.

Norman Rockwell's "Lazy Bones" when it arrived at Lowy. Two small cleaning tests are visible.

Ironically, that lazy boy had been busy increasing in value over the years. Robert Grant’s “you-break- it, you-take- it” rec room acquisition was now worth well over a million dollars and ready to make its debut at the Norman Rockwell museum in Stockbridge, MA, where it will live for the summer before being sold at the renowned Heritage Auction House in the fall. The sale will take place at Heritage in Dallas, Texas, on November 4 th , 2017 with a pre-sale estimate of 1-1.5 million dollars. It was time to fix the hole and restore the painting to a condition befitting its new-found status.

 

When “Lazy Bones” arrived at Lowy, it was quite oxidized, covered with a thick, yellow layer of natural resin varnish with heavy embedded dirt, and there were prior restorations which had been overpainted in oils. We removed all of this, humidified the painting on a vacuum table, and lined it with an auxiliary canvas, before re-stretching. Then, we inpainted the tears and prior irremovable restorations, and gave it a coat of synthetic resin varnish to protect the surface from environmental pollutants. Finally, we outfitted the painting with a 20th century American Cove frame.

"Lazy Bones" before and after restoration

Lowy is proud to have been a part of this storied painting’s odyssey. Read the story in the New York Times.

Rockwell's "Lazy Bones" all dressed up and ready for viewing.

Learn more about our conservation services. For questions or to schedule an appointment, contact us.