Brief Museum History

About Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge

Norman Rockwell Museum, located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, 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 more than 100,000 photographs, letters, and materials. The Museum’s campus 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’s mission is to promote art appreciation, education, and engagement in visual communication through the art of Norman Rockwell and other outstanding illustrators. Norman Rockwell Museum is curating innovative exhibitions that examine Rockwell and the field of illustration art. Widespread reappraisal of Rockwell’s legacy by serious scholars and the mainstream media, ranging from art historian Robert Rosenblum to author John Updike, are praising Rockwell’s work and refocusing attention on his skill as an artist and on his vision of American society.

Norman Rockwell Museum is devoted to education and new scholarship that illuminates Rockwell’s unique contributions to art, society, and popular culture. “Visual communication is the language and currency of contemporary culture – Norman Rockwell was among the most powerful and beloved communicators of the 20th century,” says Museum Director Laurie Norton Moffatt. “His paintings continue to touch people in a way that transcends age and culture. The goal of Norman Rockwell Museum is to take a broad view of Rockwell, showing his endurance as an important artist and an American icon.”

A Brief History
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 London’s The Spectator (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.”

The Museum and the Field of Illustration
“Our Babe Ruth is and always will be Norman Rockwell,” said illustrator C.F. Payne, speaking to the importance of Norman Rockwell as the standard of excellence for American illustrators.
“Rockwell’s paintings reflected American society and influenced generations of illustrators,” says 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.”

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

Educational Outreach
Norman Rockwell Museum’s educational programs are a vital link between the Museum’s collections and exhibitions and its diverse audience. Through the variety of programs, the Museum offers a unique blend of perspectives and voices in lectures, seminars, and workshops. Designed to foster inquiry and dialogue, programs use active learning that is lively, relevant, and inspirational, encouraging people of different backgrounds, abilities, and ages to explore how Rockwell’s art and illustration can ignite the imagination and engage the mind.

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