Norman Rockwell Painting Goes on Display For Six Days Before Hitting the Auction Block

It may be the last time that folks in the area get to see the Red Sox-inspired art.

Image via Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Image via Museum of Fine Arts Boston

For six days only, baseball and art fanatics (or a combination of the two) will get a rare opportunity to scope out a work done by Norman Rockwell before it’s sold for upwards of $30 million at an auction in New York.

The Museum of Fine Arts Boston announced this week that Rockwell’s The Rookie, which depicts a newcomer strolling into the Red Sox training camp locker room for the first time, will be on display from April 29 through May 4, prior to shipping off to Christie’s where it will be put out to bid to the general public. “The MFA is the only place where the public will be able to see the celebrated painting in Boston—which depicts the Red Sox locker room in 1957 during spring training in Sarasota, Florida—before it goes on the auction block,” according to representatives from the museum.

The painting was previously on display at the MFA in 2005 and 2008, following the Red Sox’ World Series wins. But its third debut at the museum may be its last. The auction in May marks the first time that this particular Rockwell piece will be available for purchase. Auctioneers expect the painting to fetch between $20 to $30 million when it’s up for sale at the end of next month.

The Rookie (it’s also known as the Red Sox Locker Room) was originally painted in the late 1950s at Rockwell’s residence in Stockbridge, which is now home to the largest collection of the artist’s work. The painting was featured on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post before it became part of a privately owned collection.

The painting features Ted Williams, pitcher Frank Sullivan, right fielder Jackie Jensen, and catcher Sammy White, all glaring skeptically at a rookie player arriving to spring training for the first time. Each player—except for Williams—traveled out to Rockwell’s house to pose for pictures a year before the project was complete.

In 2004, Sullivan reflected on meeting with Rockwell in Memories, from Diamond Days, the Red Sox alumni magazine.

He wrote:

In the summer of 1956, while playing for the Red Sox, we got a rare day off, but I was told to take my uniform and go to Stockbridge to be photographed, along with Sam White and Jackie Jensen. . . . On arrival, we found the address and were greeted warmly by a small, slim man smoking a pipe and his name meant nothing to me. We . . . went over to a two-story wooden building with a studio on the second floor. There we put on our uniforms and Jensen and I were told to sit side by side on a bench with my arm on Jensen’s shoulder while Jackie faked tying his shoelace. It was explained to us that the Sarasota, FL, locker room we used in spring training would be the background. Sam was photographed separately. . . . It all took awhile and was a little confusing . . . the following year, there we were, right in the middle of the cover for the Saturday Evening Post Magazine issue dated March 2, 1957. . . . if you’ll look closely, you’ll see we are wearing street shoes, not spikes.

Museum curators said they’re excited to give Red sox fans one final chance to check out the rare piece of work before it’s sold. ““We are proud to celebrate our hometown team and Red Sox Nation by displaying a quintessential painting from one of New England and America’s most beloved artists,” Malcolm Rogers, Ann and Graham Gund Director at the MFA, said in a statement.