Norman Rockwell was originally paid $3,500 for the painting, a detailed illustration of an older woman and a young boy bowing their heads in prayer over a meal in the middle of a crowded restaurant. It first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1951.
And just last week the 62-year-old masterpiece, “Saying Grace,” sold at auction for $46 million.
I don’t pretend to be an art connoisseur or an expert when it comes to the valuation of the art market. There are obviously many factors that go into the pricing of any particular painting. Beauty is also in the eye of the beholder, but when something sells for $46 million it really grabs your attention.
Over the years some have criticized Rockwell for being overly myopic, that he painted images of a time and place that never really existed. I don’t subscribe to such critique. Why do people speak of these moments with despair? There was a time when this was “normal.” Just because we no longer lift up such moments doesn’t mean we don’t long for such peace.
But one of the very simple reasons why this Rockwell piece demanded such a price tag, I think, is because it so cleanly captured what so many intuitively want but don’t always have:
A grateful heart.
It’s a discipline we don’t always practice, but we love it when we see it modeled so elegantly, as Norman Rockwell did to high acclaim in 1951.