The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge

The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge – The Journal of Antiques and Collectibles – November 2002

Stockbridge, MA – The Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge holds the world’s largest and most significant collection of works by Norman Rockwell, including more than 570 paintings and drawings and an archive of over 100,000 photographs, letters and materials. The museum’s campus now includes the artist’s original Stockbridge studio, moved from the center of town, which stands today much as it did in Rockwell’s lifetime, complete with easel, brushes, books and furnishings.

The Norman Rockwell Museum charted new directions by co-organizing a national tour of paintings by Norman Rockwell and curating innovative exhibitions at home that explore the field of illustration. These initiatives come at a time of widespread reappraisal of Rockwell’s legacy by both serious scholars and the mainstream media. Commentators ranging from art historian Robert Rosenblum to author John Updike are praising Norman Rockwell’s work and refocusing attention on his skill as an illustrator and his vision of American society.

The Norman Rockwell Museum is devoted to education and new scholarship that illuminates Rockwell’s unique contributions to art, society and popular culture. “The general public has an abiding affection for Norman Rockwell,” says museum director Laurie Norton Moffat. “His paintings continue to touch people in a way that transcends age and culture. The goal of the Norman Rockwell Museum is to take a broad view of Rockwell, showing his endurance as an important artist and an American icon.”

The Norman Rockwell Museum is one of the few museums in the country to have grown literally out of popular demand. In 1967, an historic home on Main Street in Stockbridge was threatened with demolition. A group of local citizens, including Norman and Molly Rockwell, joined the effort to save the classic white-clapboard building by raising funds for its purchase. The Old Corner House became the Stockbridge Historical Society in 1969, and the historical collection from the town’s public library was exhibited there.

Norman Rockwell agreed to lend some of his paintings to add variety in drawing visitors to the site. Primarily through word of mouth, people learned about the original Rockwell paintings on display in Stockbridge and attendance began to swell. Soon, the Old Corner House was identified primarily as a center for the exhibition of Rockwell’s works.

Located on Stockbridge’s historic Main Street for its first 24 years, the museum moved in 1993 to its present home, which was designed by the renowned architect Robert A.M. Stern and is situated on 36 picturesque acres overlooking the Housatonic River Valley. Since moving to its new location and greatly expanding its educational programming, exhibition schedule and special events, the museum has become the most popular, year-round destination in the culturally rich Berkshires of western Massachusetts.

“The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge must be one of the most popular museums in the world,” wrote art critic Paul Johnson in The Spectator (London, August 1, 1998), “crammed from dawn till dusk with delighted visitors crowding round the originals of much-loved paintings. And one of the further pleasures of this enchanting place is that in the nearby little towns you can recognize among the locals the children and grandchildren of the originals whom Rockwell painted with dedicated veracity.”

“Rockwell’s paintings reflected American society and influenced generations of illustrators,” says museum director Norton Moffatt. “He chronicled life in the United States during most of the 20th century and showed us America’s fundamental ideals of democracy, freedom, and human dignity. And he is fun! As the museum dedicated to Rockwell’s legacy, we want to show how his work fits into the greater scheme of modern culture and illustration.”

A museum devoted to the field of illustration, the Norman Rockwell Museum is a rarity at a time when the visual communications field is becoming more dominant. As part of its mission, the Norman Rockwell Museum is committed to exhibiting the work of modern illustrators, as well as such masters as Winslow Homer, Howard Pyle, J.C. Leyendecker, Maxfield Parrish, Rockwell Kent and Currier and Ives.

The museum is located on Route 183, (.6 miles) south from the junction of Rts. 183 & 102. By car, within 2 1/2 hours of Boston or New York City, and 1-hour drive from airports in Albany or Hartford/Springfield.

The museum is open year-round. May-October, open daily 10am-5pm; November-April, weekdays 10am-4pm, weekends and holidays 10am-5pm; Closed Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day. Rockwell’s studio is open from May-October.

An Admission fee is charged. Free admission for people 18 and under. Parking at the museum is free. The main museum building is wheelchair accessible. Museum store open daily during museum hours. For a store catalogue call 800-742-9450. For group tour reservations and program information, call visitor services at 413-298-4100, ext.220.

 1943 SEPS: Licensed by Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

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