There is a village nestled in a Berkshire valley in western Massachusetts that has the distinction of being the home of the Norman Rockwell Museum–the museum is a repository for all things Rockwell. The museum collection includes all of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers, dozens of his original paintings and charcoal studies which were the basis for many of magazine covers; also his final studio has been moved to the site. As a lifelong fan of Rockwell this visit is something I will savor for many years.
Rarely has an artist seen his life’s work so extensively reproduced using such a variety of mediums: classic paintings/prints as well as plates, playing cards, scarves and the like. As ubiquitous as Rockwell may be one rarely tires of seeing those wonderful images of “everyday” people who could be your neighbor, co-worker, family member or even you. His artwork remains fresh; there is a tenderness, a genuineness that his subjects always project. Many of the paintings though quite familiar still bring a lump to my throat, for example, his representation of the four freedoms: from fear, to worship as one sees fit, from want (hunger) and of speech:
Several times a day the Rockwell museum offers informal presentations that touch upon a variety of topics like Rockwell’s creative process, his philosophy toward art, and his desire to tell a story. He was an ardent admirer of Rembrandt and many other “Masters” . Like many artists he sometimes incorporated a particular pose or body shape into his work — “borrowed” from another artist’s work. Interestingly, he retained ownership of original painting/drawings for all his magazine covers because his clients–The Saturday Evening Post, Boy’s Life and others, only appreciated the economic value of the covers thus discarding Rockwell’s original works–Rockwell kept most of these paintings. On many occasions he gave paintings as gifts to others. This how Walt Disney came to own an original Rockwell painting.
Rockwell’s story-telling skill is integral to his work. Descriptions posted near paintings illuminated his work. There was complexity in his art that compelled him to spend long, long hours, days, weeks and sometimes even months on a particular idea. He would focus that focused in August depicting faces, colors and the very premise for the work.
He maintained a fairly pristine studio during whole professional life. Touring his studio was very enlightening — it contained his easel, brushes and paints; but it also had his chair, art books, photos of subjects, etc. See photos of his studio and the neighboring landscape:
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