Norman Rockwell Paintings Are Popular With Thieves

The $1 million Norman Rockwell painting stolen from a New York City warehouse testifies to the enduring popularity of the American artist. It became the 42rd Norman Rockwell piece to be put on a list of missing artworks.

The painting, "Sport," depicts a man fishing in the rain and was the cover of the April 29, 1939 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. It was auctioned at Sothebys on May 22 for more than $1 million. The name of the buyer was not released.

The painting, which was signed by Rockwell, was reported missing at 7 p.m. on Sept. 13 from WelPak, a storage company located in Queens, N.Y. The company declined to comment, but said it is "cooperating with the NYPD in the investigation."


Rockwell's paintings have been popular with thieves as well as collectors. The Art Loss Register had 41 other stolen Rockwells on its list before adding "Sport" to its database.

"It's a lot," said Chris Marinello, who until recently handled all the art recovery cases for the Art Loss Register for the past seven years. "Norman Rockwell is very well known because of the publications from many years. He's an American icon, and the thieves know this as well, so they target this type of work."

Julian Radcliffe, chairman of the Art Loss Register, said it is "most unlikely that somebody could sell it for its real value, but somebody might be able to sell it in a dodgy manner for a fraction of its value, either because they haven't read the newspapers or because they're not too fussy of what they buy."

Radcliffe also gave a critique of the artwork.

"It demonstrates the pain and suffering of being a sportsman in a very amusing way," Radcliffe said.

The NYPD asked for the public's help in finding the painting, which they said was in a gold colored frame. Sothebys declined to comment on the investigation.

Rockwell's paintings aren't the most stolen works of art. There are 1,147 works of Pablo Picasso listed as missing, the most of any artist.