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Norman Rockwell paintings to be sold at New York auction

Visitors view a wall of Saturday Evening Post magazine covers featuring the art of Norman Rockwell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London
Visitors view a wall of Saturday Evening Post magazine covers featuring the art of Norman Rockwell at the Dulwich Picture Gallery in London

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Seven works by American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell, including "Saying Grace" and "The Gossips," will be sold at auction in New York in December, Sotheby's auction house said on Thursday.

Rockwell, who died in 1978 at age 84, painted nostalgic and amusing scenes of everyday American life over the course of some 65 years.

The paintings, which are expected to fetch upwards of $24 million total at the December 4 auction, are being sold by the descendents of Kenneth J. Stuart Sr., Rockwell's friend and the art director at the Saturday Evening Post magazine, which published hundreds of his works on its covers over more than 40 years.

"Saying Grace," voted the favorite cover by readers of the Post after it was published in 1951, shows a Mennonite family praying at a restaurant. It has a pre-sale estimate of up to $20 million.

"The Gossips" from 1948, in which 15 pairs of people including Rockwell and his wife are depicted talking to each other, could fetch as much as $9 million.

"To offer any one of these masterworks would be a great privilege. To present two of Norman Rockwell's most iconic works in one auction is unprecedented," Elizabeth Goldberg, the head of Sotheby's American Art department, said in a statement.

Other paintings in the sale are "Walking to Church," with a pre-sale estimate of up to $5 million, a portrait of former President Dwight Eisenhower called "The Day I Painted Ike," and color studies for "Girl at Mirror," "Norman Rockwell Visits a Country School, and "Breaking Home Ties."

Rockwell's "Breaking Home Ties" sold for $15.4 million in 2006 at Sotheby's, an auction record for him.

(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Philip Barbara)

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