In 1976, the Grant family of Cherry Hill, New Jersey, returned home from a fun, family outing at the shore to discover that their treasured Norman Rockwell painting, that had proudly hung in their foyer, had been stolen. The painting, which Mr. Grant had owned for twenty years, was titled “Boy Asleep With Hoe,” and was painted by Rockwell when he was 25, as a cover for The Saturday Evening Post in 1919. The market for Norman Rockwell paintings was a little soft at the time but it made no difference to Mr. Grant–he loved that painting.
Decades passed, and woefully, the aging Mr. Grant died in 2006, never to see his beloved painting again. But a few years after his death, his son John was introduced to a retired F.B.I. agent who had spent years investigating art crimes. Over a couple of hamburgers they talked about the theft. Shortly after that conversation, the FBI released a 40th anniversary press announcement of the painting’s theft in the hope of generating fresh attention.
This year, an antiques dealer, who heard conversation about the painting on the radio, contacted the FBI. “I think I have your painting,” he said.
It turns out, just shortly after the theft, this antiques dealer became the new owner of the painting, paying a few hundred dollars for what he thought was a Rockwell copy. He had it hanging in his kitchen all these years because his wife loved Rockwell. He promptly handed the painting over to the FBI, who in turn safely returned it to the Grant family, 40 years after the theft.
If you and your family would like to own a Norman Rockwell, check out our gallery. Just make sure to install it with GPS to surprise any unsuspecting antiques dealers!