This fall, Phillips is offering two works by Norman Rockwell from the Miller-Boyett Collection in the “Evening Sale of 20th Century & Contemporary Art” on December 7. Known for their roles as producers in creating iconic TV shows such as “Happy Days,” “Mork & Mindy,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Bosom Buddies,” “Family Matters” and “Full House,” Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett also amassed an impressive collection of American art during their 40 years of partnership.
Norman Rockwell’s works “An Audience of One,” estimated at $2.5 to $3.5 million, and “The Peephole,” estimated at $1 million to $1.5 million, have both been in the Miller-Boyett Collection since 1999. They will be on view at Phillips Southampton through October 25.
“Norman Rockwell, Thomas Miller and Robert Boyett are all great storytellers. As Rockwell did with his paintings, Mr. Miller and Mr. Boyett are responsible for helping to define 20th century American life through their numerous hit television shows,” said Elizabeth Goldberg, Phillip’s deputy chairwoman and senior international specialist, American art. “All of these artists helped shape the idea of the American experience, while also reflecting the changing times. It seems only natural that they would have assembled such a remarkable collection of works by Rockwell, whose masterfully cinematic paintings continue to attract collectors around the world.”
Robert Boyett added, “Norman Rockwell has always been a part of my life — as a child, I would go through my grandmother’s collection of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers and, to this day, I can still recall most of them. I then spent years with Tom collecting his artworks and, today, I live near Rockwell’s home and museum. In each episode of our television shows, we made sure to have characters make some form of human connection. Rockwell did the very same with the subjects and the viewers of his pictures.”
“An Audience of One” was created as a story illustration for the December 1938 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal and depicts two children experiencing a range of emotions before meeting Santa Claus. In keeping with his tradition of painting those he knew, the models for this work were likely Rockwell’s own wife, Mary, and sons, Thomas and Peter. “An Audience of One” exemplifies Rockwell’s ability to convey an entire narrative through just a single frame. The composition is unique and evocative of cinema — a “reaction shot,” that chooses not to show the main event itself but rather the responses of others, placing the viewer within the scene.
With baseball serving as a recurring theme in Rockwell’s oeuvre for over 50 years, “The Peephole” depicts a pitcher winding up, as seen from an unconventional yet immediately recognizable point-of-view — through a knothole in a wooden fence, positioning the viewer as an eager fan covertly watching a baseball game. “The Peephole” graced the cover of the August 30, 1958 issue of The Saturday Evening Post at the apex of the magazine’s success, when its circulation reached almost 7 million, and after Rockwell had become a household name. It was created during what is regarded as the pinnacle of Rockwell’s career and in the same decade that he painted a remarkable 41 covers for The Post — some of which are today recognized as his most renowned and iconic covers.
“An Audience of One” and “The Peephole” are quintessential works by Rockwell, both capturing a picture-perfect moment in time, yet painted with meticulous detail. Both works show Rockwell’s remarkable skill as a painter — “An Audience of One” reveals his unique ability to render textures and surfaces in brilliant color, while “The Peephole” displays Rockwell’s love of art history and trompe l’oil, where the fence appears as real — if not more real — than the wooden panel it is painted on. Both works play with the idea of looking — not just what is happening in front of us, but what’s beyond what we see as well.
In addition to being art collectors, Miller and Boyett led storied careers in the entertainment industry, across Broadway, television, and the silver screen. In creating some of the most popular TV shows of the last 50 years, they brought several actors to the fore, making the likes of Tom Hanks and Robin Williams household names. Among their full-length feature successes, the duo produced the 1982 film “The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas,” starring Dolly Parton and Burt Reynolds. And in recent years, they turned to Broadway, producing the Tony Award-winning “War Horse” and Tony-nominated “Tootsie.” All the while, they fostered a mutual appreciation for American Art, acquiring an exceptional group of works.
Phillips Southampton is located at 1 Hampton Road, Southampton Village. Visit phillips.com for further information.