Paris: Fernand Mourlot, 1972. One of only 200 suites of full-color, 25 by 19 3/4-inch lithographs based on the artist's illustrations for the 1940 Heritage Press edition of the Twain classic. When he was commissioned in 1935 to illustrate the Press's new editions of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, Rockwell visited Hannibal, Missouri, to get a feel for the place where Twain grew up. Expecting urban sprawl to have made the town unrecognizable as the place Twain wrote about, Rockwell found exactly the opposite to be true. In his autobiography, he commented that Hannibal had turned Mark Twain into a kind of cottage industry by naming everything from markets to hotels to barber shops after him. Today, that list would include the Mark Twain Museum, where a number of Rockwell's own paintings for Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer hang on display.
It is fitting that Rockwell, whose genius lay in his ability to portray an idealized vision of small-town America, and whose paintings often featured children, should have illustrated Huck Finn, the quintessential American coming-of-age tale. At the same time, it is perhaps a surprise that a man who admitted an aversion to life's rougher, seedier aspects would illustrate a novel with such an unsavory cast of characters including murderers, swindlers, drunkards, and thieves. This suite of illustrations, then, represents an intriguing union of two visionary artists whose varying, though essentially sympathetic, depictions of the American experience endure to this day.
The eight illustrations in this suite include: "Then Miss Watson took me in the closet and prayed"; "Jim got down on his knees"; "Miss Mary Jane"; "My hands shook"; "Your eyes is lookin'"; "Then for three minutes, or maybe four"; "There warn't no harm in them"; and "When I lit my candle." All are printed on handmade Velin d'Arches paper and signed by the artist in a bold hand in the lower right corner. Housed in a tan canvas portfolio with tie straps. Portfolio with the usual "Huckelberry" misspelling to the front cover. Prints and portfolio very fine. Item #20978