Norman Rockwell Mystery Solved
Don Trachte's self-portrait with his Henry character
This is old news, but I thought I'd do an arrangement to make for easy visual comparison. From 1934 to 1942, Don Trachte was the assistant on cartoonist Carl Anderson's comic strip Henry
. In 1942, Anderson's arthritis made drawing difficult, so he turned the dailies of Henry
over to John Liney and had Trachte draw the Sunday strips.
Norman Rockwell's Breaking Home Ties
ran on The Saturday Evening Post
September 25, 1954. The second most popular image in the magazine's history, it was exhibited in museums in Washington, Cairo and Moscow. Robert Waldrop, the teenager who posed for the painting, grew up to invent the system for showing in-flight movies on American Airlines.
Don Trachte purchased Breaking Home Ties
in 1960 from Rockwell for $900. He made his own copy of the painting, possibly to keep his wife from taking possession of it during a divorce dispute. Then he secretly hid the original behind a wall panel in his Sandgate, Vermont house. In 1987, the popularity of the painting prompted an adaptation into a TV movie, Breaking Home Ties
, with Jason Robards and Eva Marie Saint.
In 2002, Trachte's fake went on display in the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. There it was seen by numerous museum-goers who believed it to be authentic. Trachte died April 5, 2005 without telling anyone about the secret niche. In 2006, Trachte's sons, Don and Dave, were looking through a box of family snapshots and saw two photos of the painting that had subtle discrepancies. For a confirmation of their suspicions, they took a tearsheet of the magazine cover to the Rockwell Museum and made a comparison with the painting. Dave began searching throughout his father's house and found a gap in the wood-paneled wall. On March 17, 2006, the brothers gave it a push, and the false wall slid open to reveal Rockwell's original and other canvases. On November 29, 2006, the Rockwell painting was sold at a Sotheby's auction for $15.4 million. Trachte's Henry
is still syndicated by King Features to 75 newspapers and also is distributed on King Features' DailyINK email service.
Don Trachte's copy of Norman Rockwell's original
Comparison of details (Trachte on left)
Norman Rockwell's original Breaking Home Ties
Rockwell's photo reference
Labels: norman rockwell, trachte