Do not leave Cambridge without paying Norman Rockwell a visit. Rent a car, drive to the Berkshires and find your way to the place that takes you back through time to re-visit the art of America’s most famous illustrator: The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, MA.
Born and raised in New York City, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) started his impressive career at age 15. He quickly became a renowned illustrator, working both as a freelancer and art director for Boy’s Life, the official publication of the Boy Scouts of America. In 1916, he began a 47-year association with The Saturday Evening Post, illustrating some 321 covers for the magazine. He then worked for Look magazine from 1963 to 1973 before retiring. Norman Rockwell spent the last 25 years of his life in the lovely town of Stockbridge.
The art work displayed in Stockbridge spans Rockwell’s entire career. And no matter where you’re from, one of these illustrations will ring a bell. There is life in these paintings. There is rhythm, color and dream. There is LIFE!
Norman Rockwell was a true magician. From his innocent paintings of rural America to his most grave illustrations of the Civil Rights movement, Rockwell went for the viewer’s heart.
Viewing his painting of a boy sitting next to a police officer in a diner, one can smell the coffee and pancakes. Take a close look at JFK’s portrait, and you can hear him say “Ich bin ein Berliner.” Stopping in front of the painting of the young black girl escorted by four federal agents on her way to an all-white school in 1964, you can feel the angry looks from the crowd.
Norman Rockwell’s art is, quite simply, charming. His illustrations of small-town American life, with their simplicity and realism, are impressive. Their humanity is impressive, too. They will remind us what life was like “back then.”
Watching one of Rockwell’s paintings is like opening an old, dusty box in the attic and touching a long-forgotten photo. The same emotion fills your heart. The same smile crosses your face. His more politically charged and less innocent pieces will not leave you indifferent either. They offer an inspiring snapshot of America’s history, spanning from World War II to the Civil Rights era, to America’s war on poverty and the exploration of space. Just as if you had lived through an entire century.
“Rockwell painted the American dream – better than anyone,” according to director Steven Spielberg, a devoted collector of Norman Rockwell’s art. More than an illustrator, Norman Rockwell was and still is a cultural icon.
We warmly recommend the Norman Rockwell museum at Stockbridge. Follow one of the old ladies for a tour of the museum. They will tell you stories about Norman Rockwell’s simple, down-to-earth lifestyle and how they used to run into him on Main Street. Before you leave, do not forget to visit the artist’s studio. Every object or artifact there has a history and a story. On your way back to Cambridge, stop at Saint Paul’s Episcopal Church and ask to see the Tiffany windows. Then cross the street and take a quick tour of the 230-year old Red Lion Inn, a historic landmark and one of the town’s must-sees.
We trust you will not regret your visit to Stockbridge. The drive through Massachusetts is more than worth it. It is a small forfeit for the privilege to admire Norman Rockwell’s unique contributions to art and society, popular culture and American history.
The Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Glendale Road
Stockbridge, MA 01262
Phone: (413) 298-4100
Open daily except Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day.