Breaking Home Ties

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Breaking Home Ties was painted by Norman Rockwell for the September 25, 1954 cover of The Saturday Evening Post.


The details of the picture, as with most Norman Rockwel works, combine to tell a story, in this case a story of endings and beginnings, as a boy from New Mexico leaves home for the first time. The painting, considered by experts to be one of Norman Rockwell's masterworks, is also one of the most widely reproduced.

The young man and his father sit on the running board of the family's stakesided farm truck. The ticket protruding from the son's pocket, and the single rail visible at the lower corner of the painting, by which the trio sit, suggest that they are at a whistle stop waiting for the train.

The son's books are stacked on a new suitcase bearing a "State U" pennant. With his tie and socks perfectly matched, wearing pressed white trousers and matching jacket, he is ready for his new life in college. The young man's shoes are shined to a polished gleam, as, hands folded, and with the family dog resting his head in his lap, his gaze focuses eagerly toward the horizon, and on the next chapter in his life.

In contrast, the father sits slumped with both his and his son's hats clutched in his hand, as if reluctant to let him go. The direction of his gaze is opposite to his son's. His watchchain dangles, near at hand, from his shirt pocket. There is a red flag and a lantern at the ready, near his right hand, atop a well-used trunk. With the son's luggage unloaded and waiting next to them, there is nothing left for him to do but signal the train to stop, and his pose suggests that he is looking up the track, dreading the imminent arrival of the train that will carry his son away.

Though the two figures are not looking at each other, the sense of family ties is very strong in the iconic 1954 picture.


Breaking Home Ties has been show in many museums, such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art (in 1955). The painting was also on display in Moscow and Cairo in 1964. Since 2003, the painting has been on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum which, before 2003, was the first public display in over 25 years.[1]

In 1960, the painting was purchased for $900 by Don Trachte and was in his ownership until his death on May 4, 2005. Ownership and access went to his four children.[1]

The painting was the inspiration for a 1987 TV movie of the same name, featuring Jason Robards and Doug McKeon respectively as the father and son.

In February 2006, Dave and Don Trachte, Jr., began to search for paintings in their deceased father's home upon coming across a replica of a painting by George Hughes in their father's studio. They found film in the studio revealing that their father possessed two copies of Breaking Home Ties, with differences that were visibly noticeable. Despite his father stating that he had the painting restored, a professional examination done by the Williamstown Art Conservation Center confirmed that to be false.[1]

On March 16, 2006, Dave and Don found the original painting located in their father's studio located in between a gap in the paneling of a bookcase. In that gap was the original paintings purchased by their father, including the original copy of Breaking Home Ties. On April 6, 2006, the Norman Rockwell Museum placed the originals along with the replicas to keep on display in their museum.[1]

On November 29, 2006, Sotheby's sold the painting at auction for $15.4 million, which at the time was a record sum paid for a Rockwell work. The buyer or buyers chose to remain anonymous.[2]

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  1. ^ a b c d "Iconic Norman Rockwell – Not Known to Have Been Missing – Found Again" (Press release). Norman Rockwell Museum. 2006-04-06. Retrieved 2006-12-06. 
  2. ^ Vogel, Carol (2006-11-30). "$15.4 Million at Sotheby’s for a Rockwell Found Hidden Behind a Wall". The New York Times (New York City). Retrieved 2010-04-02. 

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