I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: the Hudson Valley is a culturally rich region to live in. We have historic mansions, a thriving arts scene, and a local food movement that shows no sign of stopping. Everywhere you turn, there’s another piece of history in the form of a castle-cum-hotel or an old trestle refurbished and open to the public.
The cultural appeal doesn’t stop once you head further east. Just over the Massachusetts border is the Berkshires town of Stockbridge, where beloved artist Norman Rockwell spent much of his life. We visited the Norman Rockwell Museum last week (my second time, Andy’s first) and seeing his paintings and illustrations up close was such a treat.
Did you know he published 323 original covers for the Saturday Evening Post over forty-seven years? Rockwell’s long, prolific career focused on various aspects of American culture throughout the twentieth century.
Most people don’t know that Rockwell’s paintings all started out as photographs, for which he served as art director. He composed his shots, had friends or local photographers take the pictures, and then sketched the image from the finished photo. Only when he had a sketch would the painting begin.
Some people have been kind enough to call me an artist. I’ve always called myself an illustrator. I’m not sure what the difference is. All I know is that whatever type of work I do, I try to give it my very best. Art has been my life. –Norman Rockwell
I love how each of his paintings tells an identifiable story. He instructed his models (ordinary folks from around Stockbridge) on the exact facial expressions and postures he wanted to depict. I can stare at these two paintings forever, lost in the stories of the soldier on leave, peeling potatoes with his contented mother, and the policeman at the lunch counter with the runaway little boy:
This painting embodies Rockwell’s talent for capturing facial expressions so well:
From the museum’s website: Norman Rockwell Museum is dedicated to education and art appreciation inspired by the legacy of Norman Rockwell…The museum is a gathering place for reflection, involvement, and discovery through the enjoyment of the artist’s work. Norman Rockwell’s unique contributions to art and society, popular culture and social commentary influence the museum’s programs and interpretations.
The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts is a fantastic way to spend an afternoon. Check out the nearby Red Lion Inn for lunch, dinner, or just a drink. Stroll down the high street and look for scenes that Rockwell beautifully preserved in his paintings.
Common places never become tiresome. It is we who become tired when we cease to be curious and appreciative. We find that it is not a new scene which is needed, but a new viewpoint. –Norman Rockwell