Crosby House Museum unveils portrait of Norman Rockwell

Oct. 13—Best known for his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers, Norman Rockwell wasn’t above the occasional publicity for companies like Jell-0 and Mass Mutual. One such advertisement, for canned peaches, featured a painting of Bing Crosby.

The Crosby House Museum will unveil the painting at 2.30pm on Sunday. The date was chosen in honor of “Bing’s Day”, declared by former Spokane Mayor Arthur Meehan in 1946. The first 75 visitors will receive a commemorative button.

Rockwell’s painting will join Crosby’s Oscar and a collection of the star’s gold records already in permanent residence at Crosby House Museum.

Unusually, Crosby never sat down for the painting, said Special Collections Librarian Stephanie Plowman. Instead, for reference, Rockwell used a promotional photograph from Crosby’s 1949 film “Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court,” based on Mark Twain’s novel of the same name.

“The California Peach Association paid to use it in their ad,” Plowman said, noting that the exhibit will include copy of the ad. “So when you look at the picture, it’s still a movie, just a head and a neck, but you can see he’s wearing the hat of the character he played.”

Donated anonymously to the Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, over a quarter of a century ago, the piece never quite matched the rest of their collection. Then, in early 2019, a gallery representative discovered Crosby’s extensive collection of memorabilia at GU and knew exactly what to do.

“After 25 years, they felt they could find a better place for it,” Plowman said. “It took a while for it to finally come…we were getting ready to put it in the house and then COVID hit.”

Since then, the coin has been stored in the Special Collections Vault. But this weekend, it will finally be unveiled to the public again.

The Fishing Campaign wasn’t the only time Rockwell painted Crosby, nor the only time Rockwell painted Crosby from film. In 1966, the famed illustrator created a series of paintings featuring the cast of “Stagecoach,” a remake of John Wayne’s iconic 1939 film. In the remake, Crosby played drunken Doc Boone. Rockwell depicted the character with a stethoscope holding a bottle of liquor.

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