Get Out Of Town: The Norman Rockwell Museum

Very few artists merit their own museum – Van Gogh, Rodin and Picasso come to mind. So I am overjoyed to add the American artist, Norman Rockwell, to this elite roster. His iconic “Saturday Evening Post” and “Boy’s Life” oversized magazine covers are not only exquisitely executed, but their subject matter uniquely relates our American narrative.  The prolific Rockwell is in a category by himself as a representational artist. He carefully and lovingly captured on canvas those rites of passage, those moments in time, those stories and tall tales that contribute and represent our growth, not only as a nation, but as ourselves.  The thought that went into the creation of these oils and subsequent illustrations – the details, the silent puns, colors, expressions, the angles and poses of the characters in his work – not to mention such tastefully balanced compositions – well,  I can think of no other artist/ story teller celebrating the deceptively simple vignettes of daily life. Ultimately, his works underscore the social history of our country. Though his  themes are obviously American in nature, they gladly extend a universal tone… we were all kids once… right? He will make you remember that it was not so long ago!

 

 

As you approach the 36 acre grand site of the Norman Rockwell Museum, you are immediately at ease with this glorious natural setting and wonderful landscaping.  Nature’s handiwork in this tended, glowing pristine panorama is as carefully crafted as the artwork inside. This is nature that has been lovingly nurtured. You can’t help but feel that nothing can ever go wrong here!

Picnic tables abound and Norman’s Main Street Stockbridge art studio, alongside tastefully displayed outdoor sculptors by the artist’s son, Peter, are also on the grounds. This is a rare opportunity to see an artist’s studio, don’t miss the  short walk over there  from the museum.  There is a pleasant terrace café on site, behind the gift shop, offering lovely simple lunches, coffee, and juices alongside some delicious sandwiches prepared by the famous Red Lion Inn.  Serve yourself and rest you feet.  Or bring you own meal and eat at the outdoor picnic tables.

 

 

When you enter the Museum itself, you are immediately welcomed by old friends. There is such a warm flavor, such a comfort zone readily established by these paintings and illustrations, an immediate familiarity sets in…. these are my neighbors, my family, my friends, my colleagues. The majority of us have lived his stories in some form and yes –  perhaps, it is a bit idealized, but that further contributes to our nostalgic consciousness, our immediate connection to his works…. indeed our absolute NEED for his vision.

Do not think that Rockwell did not see our country’s faults, you only have to view “The Problem We All Live With” to understand his concerns, and the thoughts behind this impressive and startlingly – both visually and mentally – oil painting.

The landmark paintings/illustrations on display -  “The Critic,” “Marriage License,” “The Runaway,” “Saying Grace,” “Girl at Mirror,” “The Golden Rule” – to mention but a few  -  alongside a roomful of original  “Saturday Evening Post” covers (some with the  mailing labels still affixed!) – immediately establish our visceral connection to Rockwell  and evoke a gamut of emotions.

 

 

There is a separate room for his famous paintings illustrating “The Four Freedoms” which were the cornerstones of FDR’s landmark speech delivered during a major turn in the history of our nation. This room is incredibly moving – truly an artistic symphony in four movements – a visualization of democracy at its best.

I was lucky to catch a delightful and informative 12:30 pm lecture given by Meg Williamson who illuminated and highlighted the museum’s holdings. To further add to our knowledge of Rockwell’s personal and professional life, there is a 15 minute video shown continuously downstairs narrated by his son, Peter. Keeping it a family affair, there is currently a display of his son’s, Jasper, fanciful vision. If you are a fan of childhood toys in all shapes and sizes, then you and Jasper have much in common! See for yourself and you’ll understand my reference. There is great joy in Jasper’s work– you sense a shared twinkle in his eye alongside his Father’s.

And to keep visitors on their toes, there is currently another childhood related exhibit to enjoy –   “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: The Creation of a Classic” – which will be there through October 27th, 2013. This is a multi-sensory exhibit, and an important one. Like Norman, Walt Disney, too, had his own unique vision.

Walk….Hike….Picnic….View….Explain…. Explore…. Even Shop…you can do it all at the Rockwell. A visit here is truly a “Top Ten Day.”  It is open year round, but the Fall season is so glorious in this area, try and get there for this colorful transition.

 

By: Joanne Theodorou

 

A very special thank you to the wonderful folks at the Berkshire Visitors Bureau!

 

 

 

Comments
11 Responses to “Get Out Of Town: The Norman Rockwell Museum”
  1. leslie bellsey says:

    Your article on the Berkshires makes me want to travel there immediately. The last time I was there, was three years ago.
    I’m glad you wrote so movingly about the Norman Rockwell Museum. It is a real delight.

    Thank you Joanne for your travel insights.

  2. Susan F. says:

    Beautiful review of a special place, the Norman Rockwell Museum. I’ve had the pleasure of visiting this amazing museum in the Berkshires several times and it never gets old. It’s a must-see whether it’s the first visit or one of many. Joanne, you pointed out all that is wonderful about Rockwell’s art. I always get angry when I read pieces that say ‘Rockwell wasn’t always considred a true artisit, just an illustrator.’ What nonsense. Obviously those people didn’t have the basic capabilities of seeing what you and countless others have seen. Once again, a terrific review.

  3. Thank you Joanne,
    What a beautifully written piece; you truly captured the essence of everything we do and try to provide to visitors on a daily basis- for the last 45 years. We will surely reprint some of your quotes – as the sum up the experience here quite perfectly. We are so glad you personally enjoyed your visit – and shared it with your followers!

    Welcome one and all- we hope you will visit Norman Rockwell Museum soon- the colors are gorgeous inside and out… we even have apple trees on site- pick your own!

    • Used York City says:

      Thanks for stopping by, and we would love that! We’re very much looking forward to another visit, very soon! Happy Fall!:-)

  4. Susan y. says:

    Great piece Joanne! It made me want to jump in my car and go there!good idea about going in the fall with all the leaves changing. Rockwell is so wonderfully normal and always caught the American spirit in everyone’s normal routines. Let’s never take these freedoms we have for granted !

  5. Norman Rockwell has been referenced in so many rap tracks I’ve heard so this actually gives me some context. Thanks, Jess!
    Matt – Brisbane Photographer recently posted..Sprung Hiphop Festival PhotosMy Profile

Trackbacks
Check out what others are saying...
  1. [...] – will well attend your artistic sensibilities.  (Our full Rockwell review can be read here.) Photo Credit: [...]



Leave A Comment

CommentLuv badge

UYC Sponsors

Join Our NYC Book Club! May’s Book: