Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Property from an Important American Collection 
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)

Merry Christmas: Concert Trio

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Merry Christmas: Concert Trio
signed 'Norman/Rockwell' (lower right)--inscribed 'Merry Christmas' (along the lower margin)
oil on canvas
40 x 30 in. (101.6 x 76.2 cm.)
Painted in 1931.
The artist.
Mr. and Mrs. Wallace T. Brown, gift from the above.
Mr. and Mrs. Lee R. Brewster.
Private collection, gift from the above.
Christie's, New York, 6 December 1991, lot 249.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
The Saturday Evening Post, December 12, 1931, cover illustration.
T. Buechner, Norman Rockwell: Artist & Illustrator, New York, 1970, n.p., no. 269, illustrated.
A.L. Guptill, Norman Rockwell: Illustrator, New York, 1970, p. 171, The Saturday Evening Post cover illustrated.
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, vol. 1, p. 123, no. C328, illustrated.
B. Howe, "Norman Rockwell's Shuffleton's Barbershop: A Musical-Iconographical Riddle," The Musical Quarterly, vol. 90, issue 1, Spring 2007, pp. 16-17.

Lot Essay

Merry Christmas: Concert Trio, is an endearing painting that captures the spirit and allure of Christmas in the American psyche. Depicting three men dressed in Colonial attire playing the Christmas carol "Sing Merrile," Merry Christmas: Concert Trio belongs to a series of Norman Rockwell's most beloved works: his holiday covers for The Saturday Evening Post. Rockwell created over 322 covers for the publication during the course of his career and his Christmas covers were by far the most popular. These covers manifest why "[he] is generally credited with the invention of the modern American Christmas and the tender sentiments attached to it." (Norman Rockwell: Pictures for the American People, p. 155)

The largely secular vision of Christmas in 1930s America was almost entirely a result of mass media, which satisfied a nation that was becoming increasingly focused on consumerism. Rockwell produced numerous holiday covers to satisfy the public's demand and in so doing, helped to construct the modern American concept of Christmas. During this period the American public was so enamored with and accustomed to receiving Rockwell's warm and jovial holiday portrayals that "In many American homes Christmas and Thanksgiving weren't quite official until the Post arrived with a Norman Rockwell holiday cover." (S. Marker, Norman Rockwell, North Dighton, Massachusetts, 2004, p. 12)

Merry Christmas: Concert Trio reflects Rockwell's interest in music. While Rockwell himself was not a musician, he was raised in a household with an affinity for opera, sang in a choir at the Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine and worked briefly at the Metropolitan Opera House. This interest in music found its way into several musically themed compositions, including the present work. "Perhaps most indicative of Rockwell's musical sensibility are the many musicians who appear in his illustrations for magazine covers...most of these illustrations depict a lone musician or a small ensemble (amateurs or 'old masters') practicing in serene isolation, lost in the act of making music. It is a Rockwellian trope, which, like fishing, Christmas, dogs, young love, and the Boy Scouts, seems to sympathetically embody some essence of idealized America." (B. Howe, "Norman Rockwell's Shuffleton's Barbershop: A Musical-Iconographical Riddle," The Musical Quarterly, vol. 90, issue 1, Spring 2007, pp. 16-17)

In discussing his career, Rockwell commented, "I was showing the America I knew and observed to others who might not have noticed. And perhaps, therefore, this is one function of the illustrator. He can show what has become so familiar that it is no longer noticed. The illustrator thus becomes a chronicler of his time." (as quoted in Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, p. xii) With Merry Christmas: Concert Trio, Rockwell succeeds not only in chronicling his time, but also in capturing the nostalgia associated with Christmas and bringing holiday's cheer to houses across America.

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