Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978)
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"The Tempest tore loose its fury upon the ship..."

"The Tempest tore loose its fury upon the ship..."
signed and dated 'Norman P. Rockwell/1915' (lower right)
27 1⁄2 x 20 in. (69.9 x 50.8 cm.)
oil on canvas
Painted in 1915.
Bernard Danenberg Galleries, Inc., New York.
Merrill Chase Galleries, Skokie, Illinois.
Private collection, Ohio, acquired from the above, 1977.
By descent to the present owner.
F. Rolt-Wheeler, "Saved by the Rolling Hitch," Boys' Life, October 1915, p. 3, illustrated.
L.N. Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, vol. II, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 1986, pp. 658-59, no. S290, illustrated.
Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Fort Lauderdale Museum of the Arts; Brooklyn, New York, The Brooklyn Museum; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; San Antonio, Texas, Marion Koogler McNay Art Institute; San Francisco, California, M.H. De Young Memorial Museum; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Oklahoma Art Center; Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Museum of Art; Omaha, Nebraska, Joslyn Art Museum; Seattle, Washington, Seattle Art Museum, Norman Rockwell: A Sixty Year Retrospective, February 11, 1972-April 15, 1973.

Brought to you by

Tylee Abbott
Tylee Abbott Vice President, Head of American Art

Lot Essay

The present work was published as an illustration for Francis Rolt-Wheeler's short story “Saved by the Rolling Hitch” in the October 1915 issue of Boys' Life magazine.

From 1913 to 1976, Norman Rockwell was the primary illustrator for the Boy Scouts of America, creating paintings for over 200 Boys Life covers and story illustrations, and works for all but two Scouts calendars published by Brown & Bigelow between 1925 and 1976. The present illustration for “Saved by the Rolling Hitch” was created during Rockwell’s tenure as art director of Boys Life from 1913 to 1916.

“Saved by the Rolling Hitch” follows young Jetty as he works aboard the good ship Constitution in the midst of a fearsome storm. Ordered by the first mate to keep hold of the wheel, Jetty unfortunately loosens his grip to rest his sore neck during a momentary break in the squall. As Rolt-Wheeler writes, “Suddenly the ship seemed to pause as though with a gasp of dread of what might be in store and the wind lulled. Had Jetty been less tired or in less pain, the lull would have given him warning…But it was too late!” ("Saved by the Rolling Hitch," Boys' Life, October 1915, p. 3)

The present work illustrates the loaded moment of anticipation just as the situation is about to escalate: “With a shriek that sounded as if every inch of the storm-racked sky had agonized in one ear-splitting cry, the tempest tore loose its entire fury upon the ship, heeling her over so that the sea boiled up the scupper channels. Stunned by the blast and with one hand off the spokes, Jetty was powerless. The wheel spun round, throwing him to the deck, and the ship, free of the helm’s restraint, flung her head to the wind…” ("Saved by the Rolling Hitch," p. 3) Rockwell captures the shock on Jetty’s face as he is caught off guard by the breaking wave about to flood the deck. His slicker and rainhat will prove to be no match for the forthcoming battle against nature’s fury.

Indeed, the story continues with Jetty falling overboard and, once in the water, struggling to assist the carpenter with saving the fallen masts. Luckily, in his moment of need, Jetty recalls his friend, a Boy Scout, demonstrating on his last visit home how to tie a “rolling hitch” knot – “the only knot which would hold, the knot on which his very life depended.” (“Saved by the Rolling Hitch,” p. 32) With the help of this knot, Jetty is safely pulled back aboard and lives on for another adventure at sea.

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