4 January 2012

Norman Rockwell in Stockbridge, The Berkshires, Massachusetts

The painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell (1894–1978) – most remembered for his Saturday Evening Post covers, and perhaps especially among those his Willie Gillis series – moved from Arlington, Vermont to Stockbridge, Massachusetts in 1953. The Norman Rockwell Museum, designed by Robert A. M. Stern, holds the largest original collection of Rockwell's work, and has been at 9 Route 183, on a thirty-six acre site, since 1993. One large room houses all 322 of his Saturday Evening Post covers. Other rooms give some insight into his more socially concerned paintings, of his frustration with the restrictions caused by the demands for whimsical cutesiness: the racial issue in 'The Problem We All Live With' (1964) is of course the most famous example of this maturity. No photography allowed, as might be expected.


Norman Rockwell wanted his studio to be preserved for museum visitors to learn about his working process. In 1976, he placed his studio and all of its furnishings and equipment in trust to The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. In 1986, the contents were carefully packed, and the studio building was moved from South Street to its new site. As in its original location, the studio's large windows face north and the building continues to overlook the Housatonic River.

The relocation and restoration of Norman Rockwell's studio was made possible by the generosity of Kraft General Foods.'

The studio does not reflect the state it was in at the time the museum came into possession of it, but an earlier, more productive time.

And that time was October 1960, when Rockwell was finishing Golden Rule, which was published on the Saturday Evening Post cover of 1 April 1961.

Another part of the studio.

Also on the museum site is Linwood House, built by New York attorney Charles Butler in 1859 as his family's summer retreat and named after the novel The Linwoods (1835), which was written by relative and Stockbridge resident Catharine Maria Sedgwick. This and similar summer houses were known as 'Berkshire cottages'. The setting is beautifully picturesque, and Rockwell used to cycle here every day from the center of Stockbridge, at the same time getting to know the Musgrave family who had inherited the property. Structurally this house is the same as in Charles Butler's day, and it now forms the museum's administrative nucleus.

Around the museum are a number of sculptures. This one is a representation of children by Peter Rockwell, Norman's son.

This is by John Catalano, and is titled The Shaman.

On the way back to the parking lot by the entrance, visitors are requested to ring a large bell if they enjoyed themselves. We both clanged it vigorously: it had been a great way to spend a wet day.

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