American Dreams

Court Rules Steven Spielberg's Rockwell Not Stolen

To think one of America’s most beloved film directors owned a stolen piece of artwork from one of America’s most beloved artists seemed inconceivable—and according to a recent court ruling, he doesn’t. A Las Vegas court decided that the FBI erroneously listed Norman Rockwell’s Russian Schoolroom as stolen, a work that Steven Spielberg bought 20 years ago. The painting was taken from a Missouri gallery in 1973, but when art dealer Judy Goffman Cutler purchased it for $70,400 at an auction in New Orleans in 1988, the ownership issues had been resolved and the sale was legal. The following year, the dealer sold it to Spielberg for $200,000. But in 2007, Jack Soloman, who owned the work when it was stolen decades earlier, sued the Academy Award-winning director. The dealer who sold Spielberg Russian Schoolroom, however, took over as the defendant to protect him. When the Las Vegas court found evidence that Soloman both knew the painting was going to be auctioned and had also reached an agreement to financially benefit from its sale, the court ruled on behalf of the plaintiff and the dealer became the rightful owner of the work. Cutler now has plans to show the Rockwell classic at the National Museum of American Illustration in Newport, Rhode Island, where she’s the director and co-founder.