Around New England

Cartoonist Who Forged Classic Norman Rockwell Painting Left Kids A Huge Payoff When They Found The Original

November 23, 2023

A Vermont cartoonist who forged a copy of an original Norman Rockwell painting so he could keep the original from his wife’s divorce lawyer ended up leaving his adult children a multi-million-dollar payoff years after his death.

Don Trachte, who died in 2005 at age 89, displayed the forgery in his home but kept the original 1954  painting Breaking Home Ties behind a hidden sliding door behind a bookcase in his studio.

He also hid seven other original paintings there, according to VTDigger, which reported that his ex-wife agreed not to sell the eight original paintings but instead divide them four and four, so their children could inherit them.

The forgery went to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts after Trachte died – but an artist who saw it there kept pestering museum officials with his contention that the painting the museum was displaying was a cop.

Trachte’s sons eventually found the hidden storage space and the missing original painting.

Trachte bought the original Breaking Home Ties in 1962 for $900.

At auction in 2006 it went for $15.4 million.


Editor’s Note:  This article has been updated since its original publishing, with corrections for the title and year of the painting.

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