During my recent trip to the Berkshires my BFF, Alice, and I certainly did pack a lot into the days we were there. Although I’ve posted about most of it, a reader questioned if I visited the Rockwell Museum while in Stockbridge. She made me realize I’d forgotten to mention one of the highlights of our trip!
I’ve loved Rockwell’s portrayal of small town America and the down to earth people in his paintings ever since I can remember. He always managed to capture the good in people. The important events that shape our lives. And most of all he captured an innocence that can disappear but is also capable of returning. So visiting his museum was such a treat for me. The original museum was located downtown on Main Street. It opened in 1969 due to concerned citizens, including Rockwell, who wanted to preserve a historic home that was destined for demolition. It opened to the public with exhibits from the town library’s historical collection and original Rockwell paintings loaned by the artist. Nearly 5000 people visited in the first year.
To insure future care, preservation and public access to his work, Rockwell entrusted his art to the Museum in 1973. Over time, the quarters became too tight to accommodate large crowds and in 1993 the Museum relocated to the former Linwood Estate in Stockbridge. The Museum could now welcome thousands of visitors annually to its scenic 36-acre campus.
Alice and I attended the guided tour and I was surprised to learn information I had not known before. I thought Rockwell was originally from Stockbridge or that area. Wrong. He was born in New York City and grew up on Long Island. In 1915 he moved to New Rochelle, New York where he established his own studio. After he married and had three sons, he looked for a change of scene and a more rural area to raise his boys. So they moved to Vermont in 1939. In 1953 the family left Vermont and moved to Stockbridge, where he died at his home there in 1978, at age 84. So I was quite surprised to learn he had actually only lived in Stockbridge the final twenty-five years of his life.
Alice and I took our time walking through the museum and reading the info beside each painting. Something I had forgotten was that some of Rockwell’s paintings depicted the struggle for civil rights and other moral concerns. But as soon as I saw his 1964 painting of six-year-old African-American schoolgirl, Ruby Bridges, who was escorted by four U.S. Marshals to her first day at an all-white school in New Orleans…………..I remembered! The painting commemorated the tenth anniversary of the 1954 Brown v Board of Education ruling, intended to integrate public schools.
The museum and paintings were inspiring, uplifting and brought smiles to my face. The grounds were beautiful. We walked down the hill after we visited the gift shop to see the scenery of the hills in the distance and visit Rockwell’s studio. In 1986 his studio, complete with furnishings were carefully moved with large trucks from his former home just off Main Street to the new site.
And my favorite painting? It’s, Girl at the Mirror, 1954. The girl is contemplating her reflection and with the doll on the floor and movie magazine on her lap (I loved both as a young girl!) it captures a girl’s coming of age from childhood to womanhood……….and proves to me again how I’ve truly come full circle.
In the turmoil and uncertainty of today’s world, I think we all need a little Norman Rockwell in our lives.
See you here next time………………..