Thursday, February 08, 2007

Today in Rockwell Law

A couple of art law stories featuring Norman Rockwell today.

First, The New York Times reports (second item) that on Monday Curtis Publishing "abandoned its legal battle" to recover six Rockwell paintings from the family of the late Kenneth Stuart, the former art director of the Saturday Evening Post. (For background on that legal battle, see this earlier post of mine, which observed that at this point the claim was "a real longshot.") The very next day, the eldest of Stuart’s three sons petitioned the Connecticut probate court handling his father’s estate for an order directing the sale of the paintings in order to take advantage of "favorable market conditions." It's the latest move in "a fraternal dispute that has spanned 14 years," which is also summarized in my earlier post. The lawyer for the other two brothers is said to be "shocked by the filing ... in light of the injunction that bars Mr. Stuart from disposing of assets unilaterally" -- but it would seem that, in seeking the court's permission for the sale, he is precisely not acting unilaterally. The court-appointed special master in the probate case says that selling the paintings is "an obvious way to let the brothers go their separate ways." After 14 years, probably not a bad idea.

While Curtis was abandoning one lawsuit this week, it was just starting another one, filing a copyright infringement action in Federal court in Manhattan against the National Review for its use, on a 2004 magazine cover, of Rockwell's "Freedom from Want" (also known as "Thanksgiving Dinner"), which appeared on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post in 1943. Here is an image of the original work. In a letter to the National Review at the time of the alleged infringement, Curtis's lawyer described the 2004 cover as "an exact duplication…except that a mound of money has replaced the turkey on the platter, bundles of money are shown on the plates, and stock certificates are scattered on the tablecloth." Story from The New York Sun here.