For decades, the Norman Rockwell painting hung in the principal’s office at Gardner High School, all but unknown to the world beyond.
Now, the 1941 original has burst into the public eye, slated for a Sotheby’s auction that could fetch millions for the Central Massachusetts city.
In the early 1950s, Rockwell gave the painting, part of a popular World War II series for The Saturday Evening Post, to the principal, who hung it in his office. There it would stay until 2001. Realizing its value, school officials had the painting appraised, then stored it away for safekeeping.
But in December, after a Rockwell painting sold for $46 million, an auction record for an American painting, city officials decided it was time to tell their secret.
“I said to myself, ‘Hey, we have a Norman Rockwell,’ ” Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke quipped on Thursday.
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