"I love to tell stories in pictures," he says in the video that highlights his life. It's something he does well and is greatly meticulous in doing so.
Take the photos above and below, for example. In the photo above, the first version telling the story of a little boy running away from home, you'll note that he is in a more polished restaurant with a state trooper. (You'll also note it is unfinished -- check out the detail on the stools and the runaway knapsack and compare with the photo below).
This one is completed -- but also more "realistic." The officer is now a town officer (that detail is told in the arm patch), the diner more something like you would find in a small town. This little guy has run away from home -- but hasn't gone too far yet. And chances are, this kindly officer will return him to his home, or the friendly fountain cook will give the child's mom and dad a quiet call for a pick-up.
One of his most famous paintings was done for "Look" magazine and documents Ruby Bridges on her first day of school after desegregation, begins escorted by U.S. Marshals. Note the smashed tomato on the wall.
Another in the series tells a story of a family discovering their new neighbors. Will the children become friends? One hopes so. Will the woman peeking out of the curtain in the upper left accept the new family? One can only hope that as well.
Rockwell often used his neighbors as models and frequently worked from photos. He also, as filmmaker Alfred Hitchcock did, often put himself in the story. In the painting below you see him bringing his artwork to the newspaper in Monroe County, Iowa, young and enthused.
Rockwell stories of daily life -- a couple getting a marriage certificate...
Detail from an enormous painting of a family at the doctor's office. This was painted during war time and you can see the doctor has someone serving.
The famous telephone tree! Do you think Lily Tomlin might have taken her Ernestine costume from this painting?
And one of my favorites -- "A Day in the Life of a Girl."
We also get to see his initial sketches for that painting.
Rockwell's career included working with Boy's Life Magazine (many of his scouting paintings are at the National Boy Scout Museum in Dallas through May 2016, after which the museum will be closed; you can see more on that HERE) and the collection at Stockbridge on this topic is minimal. But you'll see many of his popular Saturday Evening Post covers in a Cover Gallery.
It was fun to see this one in person, as well as note some of the authors featured on the various covers -- F. Scott Fitzgerald, Agatha Christie and many other famous names.
You'll also find large paintings done to illustrate stories in a variety of magazines, including this one. The story tells of a woman who takes her granddaughter on a trip into town to buy cloth for a dress. This one, as are several others in the collection, very long and narrow.
I loved this one. Always have, always will. The gentle details -- the make-up on the floor, the movie magazine, the doll tossed aside. This thoughtful study of the young girl resonates with heart and hope.
He also takes his gentle pokes at his own profession, everything from creative block...
...to the study of art itself.
One of my favorites is actually a fairly small painting, though it is very long. It focuses on Stockbridge Main Street at Christmas.
It took Rockwell more than ten years to finish this painting and he had to add a 1960s car to update it from his original. Depicting a typical rural New England town, Stockbridge itself looks much the same.
The studio above the general store in the center of the painting was once Rockwell's studio, as was the little red building on the far right, nestled in the trees at another point in his career. You'll also see the Red Lion Inn on the right of the original photo of the full painting.
We decided to check out the town of Stockbridge after our visit (and I'll have a bit more about our visit to the museum in future posts, including the Hanna and Barbera exhibition and Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms.) We wanted to step into the Red Lion Inn, which you see on the far right of the full photo (up a couple of pictures!)
It's simply lovely. The kind of classic hotel that has nooks and crannies in the lobby and adjacent areas where you can play a game of chess, read a book or check out the art and interesting pieces of furniture and accessories.
I loved this big rocking horse!
If it wasn't mid afternoon, we might have stopped into the pub! It was charming and struck me as a classic Old English pub.
How I would have loved to go up those steps to a cozy room! Maybe someday.
There is much more to share but for now, settle into one of these paintings and make up your own story. What a writing prompt!
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