2016-07-21 / Upcoming Events

Hear story tonight about American copycat


The original of “Breaking Home Ties,” one of Norman Rockwell’s most reproduced paintings, was purchased by Don Trachte more than a half century ago. Trachte’s son, Don Jr., below, will talk about his father’s subsequent reproduction of the work. The original of “Breaking Home Ties,” one of Norman Rockwell’s most reproduced paintings, was purchased by Don Trachte more than a half century ago. Trachte’s son, Don Jr., below, will talk about his father’s subsequent reproduction of the work. According to America Way resident Jim Rugh, a tour guide at the National Museum of American Illustration, the curious case of Don Trachte, one of the more reticent artists in American history, is coming to Rhode Island.

“It is more than an art exhibition,” Rugh said. “It is the true story of one of the most intriguing American art mysteries.”

Tonight, Trachte’s son, Don Jr., will speak about his father.

Don Trachte Sr. was a well-known cartoonist who drew the syndicated “Henry” cartoon strip on Sundays from 1946-1993. In 1950, he purchased a house in Arlington, Vt., not far from America’s most beloved illustrator, Norman Rockwell. The two men became friends.

Twelve years after they met, Trachte bought one of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers, “Breaking Home Ties,” for $900. According to Rugh, it is one of Rockwell’s masterworks, and also one of his most widely reproduced paintings. It depicts a father and his son sitting on the running board of a farm truck. The young boy eagerly looks for the bus that will take him to college, but the father sits slumped, as if reluctant to let him leave home.

The painting became Trachte’s most-prized possession and hung in his studio for years. In 2005, just after Trachte’s death, his family made a surprising discovery. A false wall was found in his studio. Behind it was Rockwell’s original painting, along with seven other original artworks by other well-known artists.

The paintings hanging in the studio were replicas secretly painted by Trachte. The originals had been hidden from view for more than 30 years.

When the story broke in The New York Times, art lovers were curious.

“How he did it and why he did it?” Rugh asked.

Visitors to the museum will learn some of the answers. Trachte Jr.’s lecture, which is included with admission, will begin at 1 p.m. July 21 in the museum’s Marble Hall. Following the lecture, visitors can view the “Secrets Behind the Wall” exhibition.

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