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Library to auction four Rockwell paintings

Paintings to raise money for the cash-strapped library.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Four original Norman Rockwell paintings will be sold to raise money for an Ohio library whose finances have plummeted so abruptly that the Ohio attorney general is investigating the case.

The foundation that operates the Wagnalls Memorial Library authorized the sale of the paintings to raise money after the library’s savings diminished from $10 million in 1998 to $3 million this year. Questions have arisen about what happened to the money.

The foundation, which gave out 140 $1,000 scholarships to local students last year, will hand out only two this year.

The foundation hopes the paintings will net $1.6 million to $1.8 million and is negotiating with a New York auction house to handle the sale, said Carl Spencer, the foundation’s executive director.

“It upsets me to even think about losing these things,” he said. “There is a lot of sentimental and historic value.”

The Rockwell paintings to be sold include “Smiles in Belgium Once More;” “The Story of Christmas;” “Man on Dock Fishing;” and “The Old Couple.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., does not estimate the value of the artist’s pieces, but his “Rosie the Riveter” was sold by Sotheby’s in 2002 for $4.95 million, the highest amount paid for a Rockwell. “The Watchmaker” sold in 1996 for $937,500, museum spokeswoman Ellen Swan Mazzer said.

The library was built in 1925 by Mabel Wagnalls Jones, the daughter of Adams Wagnalls, co-publisher of the Funk & Wagnalls Dictionary. The library was dedicated to her parents, who grew up in Lithopolis, a village of 600 people about 15 miles southeast of Columbus.

The couple had received the paintings as a gift from Rockwell. The art later went to the foundation.