'Print' on Texas family wall is original Rockwell, sells for $1.6 million

DALLAS, Aug 21 (Reuters) - A Texas family who discovered their old Norman Rockwell work of baseball umpires was an authentic painting sold the work at auction for $1.6 million, Heritage Auctions said on Monday.

The painting, an original study for the work called "Tough Call," shows three umpires pondering whether to halt a game as raindrops begin to fall. It became one of the best-known Rockwell illustrations after being published on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1949.

Rockwell gave a signed copy to John "Beans" Reardon, a baseball umpire featured prominently in the work. Sandra Sprinkle, Reardon's granddaughter, later inherited the piece and put it above the mantle of her Dallas home for about a decade, it said.

16 PHOTOS
Norman Rockwell artwork
See Gallery
Norman Rockwell artwork
Visitors view a wall of Saturday Evening Post magazine covers featuring the art of Norman Rockwell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London January 15, 2011. Works by illustrator Norman Rockwell famous for his images of idealised small-town America have found an apt temporary home in a gallery nestled among pretty, small houses and shops in a leafy London suburb. Picture taken January 15, 2011. To go with Reuters Life! EXHIBITIONS-ROCKWELL/LONDON REUTERS/Chris Helgren (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
Peter Rockwell, son of painter Norman Rockwell, looks at his father's 1957 painting "The Rookie (Red Sox Locker Room)" on display at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston for six days in Boston, Massachusetts April 29, 2014, before being offered at auction at Christie's May 22. The painting, which appeared on the cover of the March 2, 1957 "Saturday Evening Post," includes former Boston Red Sox players Ted Williams (top center), Jackie Jensen (bottom center) and Bill Goodman (R) as well as local high school student Sherman Safford who Rockwell asked to pose as the Rookie. Christies estimates the value of the painting to be $20-$30 million. REUTERS/Brian Snyder (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT SOCIETY BUSINESS)
A visitor views a painting by Norman Rockwell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London January 15, 2011. Works by illustrator Norman Rockwell famous for his images of idealised small-town America have found an apt temporary home in a gallery nestled among pretty, small houses and shops in a leafy London suburb. Picture taken January 15, 2011. To go with Reuters Life! EXHIBITIONS-ROCKWELL/LONDON REUTERS/Chris Helgren (BRITAIN - Tags: ENTERTAINMENT)
A depiction of Santa Claus entitled "Extra Good Boys and Girls" by Norman Rockwell is viewed during a preview of the Important American Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture auction at Christie's auction house in New York, November 27, 2007. The auction of paintings, drawings and sculpture on November 29th will feature 220 lots which could sell for more than $59 million. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton (UNITED STATES)
FOR USE WITH STORY SLUGGED BC-ARTS-ROCKWELL - A new show of Norman Rockwell's illustrative work has the old Americana favorites but also feature pieces that are more stark than sweet. Spanning most of the 20th century, the range of Rockwell's work is set to open on Saturday, June 17, at Washington's Corcoron Museum of art. Shown here is Rockwell's "Freedom from Want", painted in 1943. JP/RCS
FOR USE WITH STORY SLUGGED BC-ARTS-ROCKWELL - A new show of Norman Rockwell's illustrative work has the old Americana favorites but also feature pieces that are more stark than sweet. Spanning most of the 20th century, the range of Rockwell's work is set to open on Saturday, June 17, at Washington's Corcoron Museum of art. Shown here is Rockwell's "The Problem We All Live With", painted in 1964. JP/RCS
STOCKBRIDGE, MA - JULY 16: Ed Locke stands next to the 1958 Norman Rockwell painting 'The Runaway' during the Norman Rockwell Museum's models reunion day in Stockbridge, Mass., on July 16, 2016. Locke was 8 when he modeled for 'The Runaway' and 'Before the Shot,' both of which were cover illustrations for The Saturday Evening Post. (Photo by Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Norman Rockwell, Portrait of Richard Nixon, 20th century, United States, Washington. National Portrait Gallery, . (Photo by: Photo12/UIG via Getty Images)
STOCKBRIDGE, MA - JULY 16: Tim Bush tells visitors about the 1967 Norman Rockwell painting 'New Kids in the Neighborhood,' for which he modeled, during the Norman Rockwell Museum's models reunion day in Stockbridge, Mass., on July 16, 2016. Several models on whom Rockwell based paintings gave talks and signed prints during the event. (Photo by Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
STOCKBRIDGE, MA - JULY 16: Lynda Gunn poses next to the 1964 Rockwell painting 'The Problem We All Live With' during the Norman Rockwell Museum's models reunion day in Stockbridge, Mass., on July 16, 2016. Gunn modeled as Ruby Bridges in the painting, which depicts the 1960 fight over school desegregation in New Orleans. (Photo by Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
STOCKBRIDGE, MA - JULY 16: Tim Bush poses next to the 1967 Norman Rockwell painting 'New Kids in the Neighborhood,' for which he modeled, during the Norman Rockwell Museum's models reunion day in Stockbridge, Mass., on July 16, 2016. Several models on whom Rockwell based paintings gave talks and signed prints during the event. (Photo by Timothy Tai for The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK, USA - NOVEMBER 05 : A painting of American artist Norman Rockwell, 'Which one' is being displayed during the media preview of Sotheby's New York evening auctions at Sotheby's in New York, United States on November 05, 2016. (Photo by Selcuk Acar/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A person visits the exhibition 'American Chronicles : The art of Norman Rockwell' at the Fondazione Roma Museo (Rome Museum Foundation) on November 21, 2014 in Rome. The exhibition will run till February 8, 2014 in Rome. AFP PHOTO / GABRIEL BOUYS - RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE, MANDATORY MENTION OF THE EXHIBITION, TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo credit should read GABRIEL BOUYS/AFP/Getty Images)
DENVER, CO - APRIL 21, 2014: Jesse Gregory, left, and Zach Smith, right, art handlers with Ship Art, carefully lift up a painting by Norman Rockwell entitled The Collector to hang on the wall for the American Art Impressionist & Modern art traveling show by Christie's auction house at JW Marriott hotel in Cherry Creek in Denver, Co on April 21, 2014. The painting is listed for auction at &700,000 to $1,000,000. The pieces by well known artists such as Pablo Picasso, Vincent Van Gogh, Edgar Degas, Mary Cassatt and Norman Rockwell are up for auction at Christie's in New York City in May. Christie's is holding the special viewing to create interest in the auction. (Photo By Helen H. Richardson/ The Denver Post)
WASHINGTON, DC - June 29: A detail of 'First Trip to the Beauty Shop' 1972. Preview of the Norman Rockwell collection at the Smithsonian American Art Museum lent by Steven Spielberg and George Lucas. Shot Tuesday, June 29 2010, in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Katherine Frey/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

After her death in 2015, her husband Gene Sprinkle sold the couple's home and moved to a retirement community, where his nephew took a look at the piece and noticed brush strokes.

"We always thought it was a print, but we hung it over our fireplace because it was signed by Norman Rockwell to Beans Reardon," Gene Sprinkle told Reuters by telephone on Monday.

Sprinkle, a 74-year-old retiree, said he agreed to let his nephew contact Dallas-based Heritage, which determined it was an original oil, painted as a study for the final version.

The buyer has asked to remain anonymous, according to Heritage officials.

"Sandra and her grandfather were very close," Sprinkle said.

"Whenever people came to our house to visit, she was always proud to show it off and tell them about her grandfather."

(Reporting by Marice Richter; Writing by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Sandra Maler)

Read Full Story

Sign up for Breaking News by AOL to get the latest breaking news alerts and updates delivered straight to your inbox.

Subscribe to our other newsletters

Emails may offer personalized content or ads. Learn more. You may unsubscribe any time.