The relationship between the Boy Scouts of America and Norman Rockwell spanned more than six decades, spawning dozen of commissioned coming-of-age portraits that evoke virtue, valor, and Americana.
However, in the face of tens of thousands of sexual abuse allegations, the debt-saddled organization is ready to do the unthinkable: sell its collection of Rockwell’s art.
In a reorganization plan filed in federal bankruptcy court in Delaware this week, the Boy Scouts listed nearly 60 Rockwell works of art that, if sold, would help raise money for a settlement fund of at least $ 300 million for victims of sexual abuse.
The names of the images include “The Right Way,” “On My Honor,” and “I’ll Do My Best”. The years they were completed range from 1916 to a lithograph in 1976, two years before Rockwell’s death in 1978.
“The plan shows that significant progress has been made as we continue to work with all parties to achieve our strategy of ensuring fair compensation for the victims and meeting our other financial commitments so that we can continue to be youth in years to come can serve, “the boy scouts said in an email statement on Tuesday evening.
Last February, the organization filed for bankruptcy protection after facing an avalanche of sexual abuse claims that has now risen to more than 82,000 cases.
It was not immediately clear whether and for how much the collection had been valued. Monday’s 379-page court record did not include values for each artwork, and the Boy Scouts did not explain how much the organization would seek for the collection.
Many of the paintings are oil on canvas and were commissioned over the decades by the Boy Scouts who first commissioned Rockwell to illustrate “The Boy Scout’s Hike Book” in 1912. He soon became the art editor of Boys’ Life as the organization’s monthly magazine was phoned at the time.
A prominent Rockwell biographer suggested Tuesday that the value of the paintings in the Boy Scouts’ collection could be more sentimental than some of the most valuable works by Rockwell, who she said he was never a Boy Scout himself.
Deborah Solomon, art critic and author of American Mirror: The Art and Life of Norman Rockwell, said in an email Tuesday night that Rockwell’s Boy Scouts paintings, while very famous, were not among his best works.
In 2013, Saying Grace, a Rockwell painting unrelated to the Boy Scouts that appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on November 24, 1951, fetched $ 46 million when it was auctioned by Sotheby’s . The following year, “After the Prom” sold for $ 9.1 million and “The Rookie” for $ 22.5 million.
Ms. Solomon, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, noted that many of the pictures were assigned to Rockwell by Boy Scouts, often for calendars, with the organization often dictating the subject and saddling him with rules.
“He was not free to invent or penetrate the canvases with his usual closely watched details,” she said.
One of the most notable examples came in 1941 when Rockwell created a popular painting in which a boy scout defying a hurricane leads a young girl to safety, according to Ms. Solomon.
“Even though the boy scout is standing in the rain, his uniform is dry and tightly pressed,” she said. “Rockwell was upset when he was told to color in a single drop of water that he originally painted on the Boy Scout’s uniform.”
Many of Rockwell’s paintings for the Boy Scouts have been on display at the Medici Art Museum in Howland, Ohio, as part of a free exhibition that is ongoing since last year.
Katelyn Amendolara-Russo, deputy director of the museum, said in an email on Tuesday evening that the museum had been made aware that the collection could go bankrupt when it reached an agreement with Scouts in 2019 to host the exhibition completed. She added that the museum will keep Rockwell’s work on for as long as possible.
“We are obviously disappointed because it has been a wonderful display of scouting in action for over 100 years, as portrayed by one of America’s greatest artists, Norman Rockwell, who had a lifelong passion for scouting,” she said.
Scouts officials said that many aspects of the restructuring plan would be refined through mediation and that the organization hoped to emerge from the Chapter 11 restructuring by the fall.
What would Rockwell think of Boy Scouts who part ways with his valuable works?
“I am sure he would be appalled to learn of the sexual assault charges,” said Ms. Solomon, “and I would suspect that he would like the Boy Scouts to sell their collection of his paintings to set up a victims’ fund. ” and to reward the children and ex-children who deserve compensation. “