Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Our trip to the Norman Rockwell Museum

Stockbridge, MA

Home of the Norman Rockwell Museum

My sister gave us her hearty recommendation to be certain to visit the Norman Rockwell museum off exit 2 of the Mass pike, just east of the NY thruway (hwy 90) highway. We found both directions and signage excellent, meandering our way between tollbooths, along backwoods USA roadways and country villages. The museum is an excellent springboard for art appreciation, but also for story telling. Norman Rockwell the artist so dearly wanted to capture life in America within the everyday spectrum of simple daily living. Even more, this famed painter lived in Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life with his wife Molly, and founded the museum in 1969 together.

The Red Lion Inn

We parked and took a break firstly in the town village center of Stockbridge, MA, as a recommendation was also suggested to have our lunch at the “Red Lion Inn”, a heritage restaurant made famous by one of Norman Rockwell’s paintings of the town titled "Stockbridge at Christmas", when he arrived there and set up his home and studio.

Old heritage homes were everywhere! (Note the crosswalk)

We were awestruck once again with the lovely heritage homes lining the roadways, home and grounds both meticulously tended to and so well preserved.

Such a quaint and lovely feel to the town

Town Offices - 1884

It was a very interesting and whimsical place to us, before we even exited the vehicle to take a browse around the center market area. As we had arrived earlier than anticipated, the restaurant was closed and we quite a lot of time to wait, therefore we decided to skip the meal there and head straight for the actual museum itself.

Kids were free!

The museum was an approximate 3-mile drive west of the town, very near the easily accessible exit back onto the highway (after yet another tollbooth!). By the time we entered the parking lot, we realized the weather was perfect for strolling the building and grounds, as well as the fact it wasn’t too crowded and no buses were noted in the parking lot.

Hubby was eager to enter the building,
but he had to stop and pose first.

The Norman Rockwell museum houses the world's largest and most significant collection of original Rockwell art. Highlights include enduring favorites from Rockwell's "Saturday Evening Post magazine covers", the powerful “Four Freedoms" (WOW!), and other famous and very pricey original paintings. The Norman Rockwell Archive contains more than 100,000 photographs, letters, and other rare mementos.

Upon entry across the threshold and through the double front doors, the nostalgic Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas” painting surrounded us on the foyer walls with deacon’s benches underneath on both sides. I love this painting!

After the entrance fee was rendered, we noticed a man giving a tour to visitors so we hopped aboard, wandering along and blending along with them. What a great way to find out more information, not only about all the paintings on display, but the tour guide was an actual character in several of the paintings from days gone by, happily offering all the answers to questions folks were giving him at the question time period.

Here's a tidbit for you...

Did you know this artist never named his own paintings? Ever? This is true! All paintings commissioned were named and titled by their owners once the painting was complete, or by the “Saturday Evening Post” magazine, attached to themed articles within their publications. I found this most interesting; as the tour guide assured us one painting may be known to some as a different name than those posted within the museum. Good to know!

Self portrait.

We were deeply touched by some more than others of course, and the children could see some of the collectible plate artwork I owned on the walls, as well as scenes from calendars and books we possess. As in the case of the Baseball Hall of Fame, the museum includes an ever changing and rotating showcased art exhibit, so not every visitor will see the same paintings each time they visit. Nevertheless, it was an uplifting experience, offering a visitor the most significant collection of Rockwell’s work, including 574 original paintings and drawings. There are also Rockwell archives, more than 100,000 items, including working photographs (LOVED the global sketches for major airlines), letters, personal calendars, fan mail, business documents and more. No photography signs were posted within the museum so I have a collection of outdoor ones mostly, which will have to do. As well, the gift shop was fabulous!

Yes, we bought books!

Off we go

When we had absorbed all we wanted, the gift store was next, and then we found out Norman Rockwell’s actual art studio building was moved to this present site intact, a short walk a way down the garden lined pathway. The building was an actual nineteeth century carriage barn, renovated and transformed 1957. When the artist realized the studio didn't have enough storage space, he had an addition built in 1963. The studio features the artist’s original art materials, easels, working desk and copiers, storage in the loft, personal collections of notable historical items of interest, and of course, his beloved smoking pipes.

Left as it was by the artist

The artist’s personal home is still standing in Stockbridge, though sold and owned by another since he passed away. No one was bashful in the least about mentioning the exact location for others to take a drive past it, so the new owners must have to deal with many looky-loos.

Within the area, there are many original settling townspeople still living who were honored to be Norman Rockwell’s art subjects, and quite a few of them are happily spending their time volunteering at the museum, most notably glowing with great affections and much fondness the artist today. They speak of the kind and gentle soul he was, so wonderful to everyone. Only good memories were here in the museum, and the sincerity with each presentation was not to be mistaken.

You can visit the current exhibitions of Norman Rockwell's artwork within the Museum site by clicking HERE.