STOCKBRIDGE, Massachusetts – After exhausting ourselves trekking the Great Barrington Housatonic River Walk — which is all of one and a half blocks long, despite the big billing and web page — and feasting on some of the best pizza in the Northeast at Baba Louie's, it was time to get down to brass tacks and explore some culture.
Why? Because it was raining, and there was no laser tag emporium in the vicinity. So we headed up to the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One can't hear the name "Norman Rockwell" without conjuring an image of a baseball player, Thanksgiving turkey, a kindly police officer, or a clever self-portrait. His images are that Americana iconic.
Perhaps too iconic, as his huge success seemed to win him admirers and detractors who thought his aspirations a bit too humble and not artsy enough. No, he's not Matisse or Miró, though it was interesting to learn he did not want to be that kind of painter. He knew who he was: a storyteller. And he was a great one.
The story of a painting is what interested him above all else, and it is on display: The man was prolific! (Those 323 Saturday Evening Post covers were just part of his output.) His art studio was moved on to the museum property, which was fun to see. It's a clean, vaulted cottage interior, with many art books of the greats who obviously inspired him, like Rembrandt and Picasso, much as he did not emulate them. The vast lawns were sprinkled with some of his son's quirky and ingenious robot sculptures, and others in homage to the film Robots. The visit was vastly more fun and rewarding than we had guessed it would be. When you go, skip the river walk and walk off your pizza binge at Norman's place.
Norman Rockwell Museum
9 Route 183
Stockbridge, MA 01262
FOR YOUR BEDSIDE TABLE
Norman Rockwell: A Modern Life, by Laura Claridge
BEST OF THE WEB
Norman Rockwell from the Collections of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg (Smithsonian Museum slideshow)
Norman Rockwell's New Relevance (New York Times)
Rockwell Models Gather for Reunion (New York Times)