Breaking Home Ties, 1954

I once did a cover showing a father seeing his son off to college. That year my three boys had gone away and I'd had an empty feeling - it took me a while to adjust without them. This poignancy was what I wanted to get across in the picture. But there was humor in it too. I put a funny kind of suit on the boy because he was a ranch boy leaving home for the first time. And his father was holding two hats, one the boy's beat-up old rancher's hat and the other his brand-new hat. The boy was carrying a lunch box all done up in pink ribbon. I drew a collie dog with his head on the boy's lap. I got most of my fan letters about the dog. You see the father couldn't show how he felt about the boy's leaving. The dog did. - Norman Rockwell, 1960

Placing second after Saying Grace in a Saturday Evening Post readers' popularity poll, Breaking Home Ties has always held the admiration of the general public but art critics who have chided Rockwell's painting for its sentimentality have had to draw their judgmental line at this work for its awe inspiring emotional realism and its technical mastery.

In 2006, an amazing discovery was made when the painting believed to be the original was identified as a replica. The original painting was found behind a secret wall in the home of the painting's owner, the deceased artist Don Trachte of Arlington, VT.

(Video: listen to original model Robert Waldrop reminisce about his experience posing for this classic painting)

Breaking Home Ties, Norman Rockwell, 1954. Oil on canvas, 49" x 49". Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, September 25, 1954. Private collection.