The Boy Scouts of America and Norman Rockwell’s association spanned more than six decades, producing dozens of commissioned coming-of-age portraits that evoke virtue, bravery and Americana.
But now faced with tens of thousands of sexual abuse complaints, the debt-ridden organization is about to do the unthinkable: sell its Rockwell art collection.
In a reorganization plan filed in Delaware Federal Bankruptcy Court this week, the Boy Scouts listed nearly 60 works of Rockwell art whose sale would raise money for a settlement fund of at least $ 300 million. dollars for victims of sexual abuse.
The names of the paintings include “The Right Way”, “On My Honor” and “I’ll Do My Best”. The years they were completed range from 1916 to a lithograph in 1976, two years before Rockwell’s death in 1978.
“The plan demonstrates that significant progress has been made as we continue to work with all parties to achieve our strategy to provide fair compensation to victims and meet our other financial obligations so that we can continue to serve young people.” for years to come, ”the Boy Scouts said in an emailed statement Tuesday night.
Last February, the organization, faced with an avalanche of sexual abuse complaints that now exceeds 82,000 cases, filed for bankruptcy.
It was not immediately clear whether the collection had been valued and for how much. The 379-page court filing on Monday did not include values for each piece of art, and Boy Scouts did not say how much the organization would seek for the collection.
Most of the paintings are in oil on canvas and were commissioned over the decades by the Boy Scouts, who first hired Rockwell to illustrate “The Boy Scout’s Hike Book” in 1912. He soon became editor. of Boys’ Life, as the organization’s monthly magazine. was called at the time.
A prominent Rockwell biographer suggested on Tuesday that the paintings in the Boy Scouts’ collection may be more sentimental than some of the most prized works by Rockwell, who she says was never a Boy Scout himself.
Deborah Solomon, art critic and author of “American Mirror: The Art and Life of Norman Rockwell,” said in an email Tuesday night that while Rockwell’s Boy Scout paintings were extremely famous, they were not among his best works. .
In 2013, “Saying Grace,” a non-Boy Scout-associated Rockwell painting that appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on November 24, 1951, fetched $ 46 million at its auction at Sotheby’s. The following year, “After the Prom” sold for $ 9.1 million and “The Rookie” for $ 22.5 million.
Ms Solomon, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, noted that many Boy Scout paintings are attributed to Rockwell, often for calendars, with the organization often dictating the topic and charging it with rules.
“He was not free to invent or imbue the canvases with his usual array of closely observed details,” she said.
One of the most notable examples came in 1941 when Rockwell produced a popular painting in which a scout, braving a hurricane, carries a young girl to safety, according to Ms. Solomon.
“Although the scout is standing in the rain, his uniform is dry and perfectly ironed,” she said. “Rockwell was annoyed when told to paint a single drop of water that he originally painted on the Boy Scout’s uniform.
Numerous Rockwell paintings for Boy Scouts have been on display at the Medici Museum of Art in Howland, Ohio since last year as part of a free exhibit that still continues today.
Katelyn Amendolara-Russo, associate director of the museum, said in an email on Tuesday evening that the museum was told the collection could be sold into bankruptcy when the Boy Scouts first arranged in 2019 to host the exhibit. She added that the museum would continue to exhibit Rockwell’s works for as long as possible.
“We are obviously disappointed because this is a magnificent demonstration of Scouting in action for over 100 years, as portrayed by one of America’s greatest artists, Norman Rockwell, who had a lifelong passion for Scouting,” said -she.
Boy Scouts representatives said many aspects of the reorganization plan are still being refined through mediation and the organization hopes to get out of the Chapter 11 reorganization by this fall.
So what would Rockwell think of the Boy Scout splitting up with his prized works?
“I’m sure he would be horrified to learn of the sexual assault charges,” Ms. Solomon said, “and I guess he would want the Boy Scouts to sell his collection of his paintings in an effort to create a fund for the victims. and reward children and former children who deserve compensation. “