My first encounter with Norman Rockwell was in history class. I remember seeing the painting “The Problem We All Live With” and it really struck me. Its inspiration was a little girl named Ruby Bridges. Rockwell depicted her historic walk, the first black child to attend an all white school, after Brown vs Board of Ed declared separate but equal schools were unconstitutional in 1954. His painting brought this event in history to life for me. For this reason I knew I liked Norman Rockwell. He had an impeccable knack for capturing a moment in a painting. True emotion, background, history. I wasn’t a Rockwell fanatic, this was the only painting I associated with him. I didn’t even realize I had already seen many of his paintings before I visited the Norman Rockwell Museum [9 MA-183, Stockbridge, MA 01262]. You don’t have to be simply an art lover to visit this museum. I generally enjoy more abstract art to portraits, but Rockwell is different. Anyone who has an interest in history, American society, or can just appreciate a tender moment captured in time will be captivated by the work of Norman Rockwell. When you get there you’ll notice the museum is on a wide open stretch of beautiful Berkshire land.
Rolling hills and vistas, just a perfect setting. Rockwell lived here for the last 25 years of his life. A few interesting sculptures sit in the front yard.
Perplexing works created by his son, Peter Rockwell. Inside it is very different. General admission is steep ($18) if you’re not a kid (under 5 free, 6-18 $6), but college students don’t have it so bad ($10). Check with your local library to see if there is a museum pass which would grant you free admission otherwise, a visit is worth every penny. Make sure to get every pennies worth by starting downstairs. Watch the video that describes the life of the artist, it will give you better insight to his work. I couldn’t believe everything I could learn about America just by looking at Saturday Evening POST covers throughout the decades.
Once your finished, naturally head upstairs to view the largest collection of original Norman Rockwell paintings. The image of a young WWII vet in uniform with his mother peeling potatoes, on K.P. duty, spoke to me.
On my visit we were heading into November, so Thanksgiving was of course on my mind. For me, WWII is a topic that is very near and dear. I have worked on a the USS Slater a WWII ship for many years and have had the pleasure of forming friendships with many veterans from the war. Thinking of my friends, my own veteran family members, and knowledge of American history, on top of that the time of year – all of these elements in a swirling conglomeration evoked real emotion. I was surprised as I am not normally moved by art. Really look and read the captions as you walk around, I hope you find a painting that touches you as well. On a lighter note Jeff dubbed this painting, “How the Family looks after Julie plans a Vacation!”
Ha. ha. I bet they took a road trip to the Grand Canyon, this is essentially the picture in my head when I envision a classic American vacation out west. I discovered so many amazing paintings here, and really studied them instead of just skipping on to the next one. I am perpetually impressed with Rockwell’s uncanny ability to show puppy love, compassion, controversy, and so many sensations in a still life.
Outside and down a short path you can walk over to Rockwell’s old studio.
You can enter seasonally and look about, to see just how things would have looked in 1960.
On an unrelated note, the sky was perfect when we got back outside on the day of my visit.
Leaving the museum I couldn’t believe how engaged I was, this museum really struck a chord in me. Maybe it’s because I love art, history, and my country. Maybe it’s because I cherish life’s little moments. Maybe it was just my exposure to an incredible artist who found the ability to work magic, in my eyes at least. Rockwell’s art embodies America, in good times and bad, but always gracefully – preferably with oil on canvas. The last painting I’ll leave you with wasn’t of a person as so many before, but a town, Stockbridge to be exact.
It looked so peaceful, real, and idyllic. I loved the image. Driving off later that night we went down that very main street, how I swooned to see that Rockwell’s Stockbridge looked almost the same – just how the America of your sweet old timey dreams would be portrayed, right in front of your own eyes.