Portrait of Michelle signed and titled 'Michelle / by / Norman Rockwell' (lower right) pencil on paper sight 17 1/2 x 13 3/4in
PROVENANCE: John Crawford Private collection, California
In 1964, John Crawford approached Norman Rockwell about commissioning a portrait of his daughter, Michelle. After Crawford inquired as to how much the drawing would cost, Rockwell replied, 'I'm just an old New Englander, so let's swap. I'm doing an illustration for New Years Eve. It's of a little girl sitting at the top of the stairs watching a roomful of grownups and if you and your daughter would model for me we'll call it even.' Based on the photo archives at the Norman Rockwell Museum, Michelle was captured numerous times by Rockwell's camera in an evening gown, and her figure can be found among the crowd of party goers on the 1964 Christmas issue of McCall's (Laurie Norton Moffatt, Norman Rockwell: A Definitive Catalogue, 1986, p.63, no.C170, illus. p.63).
In a few letters which accompany this lot, Norman Rockwell kept John Crawford abreast of his progress on Michelle's portrait. On January 19th, 1965, Norman Rockwell wrote: 'Dear John: / Here are the two portraits of your daughter / and one of yourself. / As I asked you, please do not use the one / of your daughter in full face until at least / you have received the drawings. You are a / patient man, be patient a little longer. / Cordially yours, / Norman (signed in blue ink)'
John Crawford must have been a patient man, for it took Norman Rockwell over four months to complete the final drawing of Michelle on April 17th, 1965. In a handwritten letter to Mr. Crawford, Norman Rockwell provided a forgivable excuse as to the reason behind the delay: 'Dear John,- / Here at long last is the / drawing of Michelle. / It was difficult for the / simple reason Michelle is so / perfect. Its much easier to make a / drawing of a good looking / girl that has a couple of / obvious faults that can be / corrected. But Michelle is so / perfect that all I could do / was try to copy her. / I hope you like it. / Cordially / Norman'