Traveling has always been one of my passions. I love the joy of experiencing new cultures and the excitement of exploring our amazing world.
Home of America’s Most Celebrated Illustrator
I recently had the pleasure of visiting a place I had wanted to visit for years. Sometimes when you live close enough to a place and know you can visit at any time, you just never seem to get there. Funny how that works.
The place I am talking about is the Norman Rockwell Museum, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Much more than just a museum, this place brings to life the social consciousness of America through the eyes and hands of a pure genius. Not only are his paintings beyond magnificent, but they also tell a story of America’s trials and tribulations from the depths of the great depression and World War II to the social injustices of the civil rights era.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, on 36 beautiful acres in the scenic rolling hills of the Berkshires. The museum is easy to get to and is just ten minutes off exit 10 on the Massachusetts Turnpike if coming from the east.
You will travel right down historic Main Street in the heart of Stockbridge on your way to the museum. This was the setting for one of Norman Rockwell’s most famous paintings, Home for Christmas. Once at the museum, you will find plenty of parking, and they even have charging stations for electric vehicles.
The museum has two floors, and many visitors start in the basement so they can watch the very informative video on Rockwell’s life. We started on the first floor mostly because we had only ten minutes before our entry time into Rockwell’s Studio. This is a separate building located on the grounds and does require a small additional fee, but it is well worth it.
The docent who greeted us as we entered the studio was a wealth of knowledge and stories. Seeing where the master performed his magic was an amazing experience, and the studio contains the actual chair, easel, and other tools that Rockwell used in the creation of his paintings.
Rockwell’s studio was originally located in the backyard of his home on South Street in the center of Stockbridge. It was moved to the museum grounds in 1986 and is a wonderful addition to the museum. This was Rockwell’s studio for 21 years, from 1957 until his death in 1978. Your visit to the studio will take about 15 minutes, and they are scheduled in 20-minute increments. The Studio Tour is offered from May to October.
Rockwell enjoyed using family, friends, and locals from Stockbridge in many of his paintings. During the Studio tour you will hear much more about his very personal relationship with the community that he loved. I highly recommend adding this to your visit as it provides a greater understanding of Rockwell’s life and the methods and motivation behind his paintings.
The basement of the museum contains a collection of every one of Rockwell’s Saturday Evening Post covers. During his life, Rockwell created 323 covers for the Post, spanning 47 years. His first cover was created in 1916 as a 22-year-old, and his last was done for the December 14, 1963, edition of the Post.
Looking at the sequence of Rockwell’s Post covers is like replaying almost 50 years of American history. His last cover was a portrait of JFK following the senseless assassination of the president.
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In the gallery where the Post covers are located is also a small theater where you can watch a short video on the life of Rockwell. It is very informative and will give you a great deal of insight into the man and his work.
The main floor of the museum contains the works of Rockwell in addition to a few other traveling exhibits. This is the largest collection of Rockwell original art in the world. The museum updates both the Rockwell paintings on display and the exhibits periodically, so if you make a return visit, you will most likely see something new.
There are eight rooms on the main floor, and you will have the opportunity to see many of Rockwell’s most famous paintings. On our visit, we got to see: Triple Self-Portrait, Glen Canyon Dam, Family Home from Vacation, Golden Rule, Freedom from Want, Freedom of Speech, The Runaway, Marriage License, Law Student, and The Problem We All Live With, among many others.
The level of detail and realism in each of his paintings is hard to fathom. He certainly was a master with his brush, but it was also his ability to tell a story with each creation that really resonated with his audience. If you do the Studio tour, you will come to realize that Rockwell had a very specific process for each of his paintings, and it involved meticulous preparation and attention to detail.
The 36 acres that encompass the Norman Rockwell Museum give visitors a chance to experience the tranquility of the Berkshires. The grounds overlook the Housatonic River Valley and offer visitors hiking trails to explore the property.
The museum was originally founded in 1969 and was located in the Old Corner House on Main Street in the center of Stockbridge for its first 24 years. In 1993, it was moved to its present location. The Art Studio on the grounds of the museum is the exact one used by Rockwell and was moved from his home in Stockbridge to the museum grounds after being cut in half, quite a feat.
The land where the museum is now situated has a story as well. According to our docent, the property, known as the Linwood Estate, was owned by the Musgrave family. If the name sounds familiar, it is because renowned astronaut, poet, surgeon, and all-around superhuman, Story Musgrave, grew up on the property. His family sold the estate to the Rockwell Museum in 1983. The family home, a beautiful Victorian-era mansion, is now open to the public.
Museum Visitor Information
- Thursday – Tuesday: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
- Closed Wednesday
- Adults: $20
- Seniors, AAA, Retired Military: $18
- Teachers: $15
- College Students: $10
- Under 18 and Active Military: Free
- Add $5 to fees for the Studio Tour (May through October)
In addition to the Museum, Studio, Victorian Home, and Hiking trails, there is also a Café, gift shop, and picnic area.
The Norman Rockwell Museum truly is a fascinating and educational place to visit. You can easily spend half a day here or longer if you are up for some hiking. When you examine his work up close and personal, you really do marvel at the incredible talent Rockwell possessed in bringing the characters in his paintings to life. And they all tell a story, be it social injustice, the promise of youth, or just the joy of life in America during the 20th century.
I can hardly believe that I live less than an hour away from the museum, but just now decided to finally visit. If you find yourself in the beautiful Berkshires of western Massachusetts, do yourself a favor and spend a few hours at the Norman Rockwell Museum.
© 2022 Bill De Giulio