How I loved exploring the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Viewing the originals of paintings I’ve loved since I was a child was an amazing experience. There’s nothing like viewing Rockwell’s art large and up close, while also getting to lean in and peer at individual brush strokes.
Rockwell – The Illustrator
In his day, some people criticized Rockwell for not being a “real” artist. But they missed the point. Norman Rockwell was an illustrator–a story teller–and personally, I prefer that kind of art.
In 1973, Norman Rockwell (1894 – 1978) gave his personal collection to the Stockbridge Historical Society, which later became the Norman Rockwell Museum. He bequeathed his personal studio to their collection in 1976. In 1986, after the museum was built, the studio was moved from Rockwell’s backyard to the museum grounds. We were able to tour his studio before entering the museum itself. Today the studio looks as it did in 1960 when Rockwell painted Golden Rule for the April 1, 1961 cover of the Saturday Evening Post.
The museum centers around Rockwell’s art, but it should be noted that they also showcase other artists. These exhibits are worth seeing as well, but on this day, we only had time for Rockwell. If I lived nearby, I would get a membership!
While we waited for our timed-entry to see the main floor of the museum, my husband and I watched a short film downstairs. It included an interview with Rockwell and his family. Then we walked around a room that displayed covers he had done for the Saturday Evening Post. After that we were ready for our self-guided tour. I decided to forego the audio and read the signs instead. That way I could stand in front of a painting for as long as I liked.
The Art Critic Work-Ups
I particularly enjoyed seeing a series of work-ups Rockwell did for a Saturday Evening Post cover (April 16, 1955) called Art Critic. Notice how the woman in the portrait goes from being affronted by the audacity of the art critic (modeled by Rockwell’s son, Jarvis), to thinking, ‘hey, he’s rather attractive!’
The Saturday Evening Post
Rockwell is famous for depicting small-town life, as shown in the 322 covers he illustrated for the Saturday Evening Post. Each one tells a story, always empathetic and heart-warming.
Civil Rights Paintings
During the 1960’s however, Rockwell moved on to other topics such as civil rights and space exploration. I felt overcome by this painting called, New Kids In The Neighborhood. I hope the kids are drawn together by shared interests and become friends!
Freedom of Speech
For me, one of the most relevant paintings was the one called Freedom of Speech. Read the sign that explains the story behind it and notice how Rockwell wrote, “But they let him have his say. No one had shouted him down.”
If You Go
For more information on the Norman Rockwell Museum, visit the website. Visitors are free to walk around the 36 acres surrounding the museum. You can bring a picnic or even do some sketching and painting. It’s a terrific place to visit, though covid restrictions still apply. Please note that the studio portion of the museum is only open May through October.
To read a short biography on Rockwell, visit this page of the museum’s website.
Stay tuned for my next blog where I will share photos of a Berkshire-Audubon walk, complete with evidence of beaver activity! And if you want to go back to the beginning of my series on Exploring Massachusetts, start here.
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