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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Crosby House Museum unveils Norman Rockwell portrait

Best known for his iconic Saturday Evening Post covers, Norman Rockwell wasn’t above the occasional advertisement 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 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. The date was chosen in honor of “Bing’s Day,” which former Spokane Mayor Arthur Meehan declared in 1946. The first 75 visitors will receive a commemorative button.

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

Unusually, Crosby never sat for the painting, special collections librarian Stephanie Plowman said. Instead, for reference, Rockwell used a promotional photograph taken from Crosby’s 1949 movie “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 advertising,” Plowman said, mentioning that the exhibit will include a copy of the advertisement. “So when you look at the picture, it’s a movie still, just a head and neck but you can see he’s wearing his hat from that character he played.”

Anonymously donated to the Trailside Galleries in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, more than a quarter of a century ago, the piece never quite fit with the rest of their collection. Then back in early 2019, a representative from the gallery learned of the extensive collection of Crosby 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 up in the house and then COVID hit.”

Since then, the piece has been stored in the Special Collections vault. But this weekend, it will finally be unveiled for public viewing again.

The peach campaign was not the only time Rockwell painted Crosby, nor was it the only time Rockwell painted Crosby from a movie. In 1966, the famed illustrator created a series of paintings featuring the cast of “Stagecoach,” a remake of the iconic 1939 John Wayne film. In the remake, Crosby played Doc Boone, a drunk. Rockwell depicted the character with a stethoscope holding a liquor bottle.

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