Listen to the adult and family audio segments from the Museum’s digital gallery tour for Home for Christmas.
Learn more about the Museum’s Digital Gallery Tour.
[NARRATOR] If you’ve spent any time at all in Stockbridge, you’ll recognize the subject of this painting.
[FITZPATRICK] The painting portrays what appears to be a very idealistic and almost make-believe village. But it’s not make-believe- it’s our real town, where we live and shop and work.
[NARRATOR] Nancy Fitzpatrick’s family owns the Red Lion Inn, the building on the far right side of the canvas.
[FITZPATRICK] It pretty much looks the same now. I mean, there’s a handicapped-accessible entrance to the bank, but that’s literally the only difference, except that the Red Lion Inn is all lively at Christmastime. The Red Lion Inn is dark in the picture. It was a summer hotel that opened in May and closed in October. It really over the last 30 years has become the center of village life. We have used Main Street at Christmastime as the cover of our brochure for almost 30 years.
[NARRATOR] Every Christmas, a group of locals duplicates this painting in three dimensions on the real Main Street. The block is closed, and classic cars are parked in their appropriate spots, down to the car with a Christmas tree on its roof.
[FITZPATRICK] The whole scene looks just eerily like the painting.
[NARRATOR] Rockwell’s first studio in Stockbridge was above Nejaime’s market in the center of Main Street. In the painting, he put a lighter Christmas tree in the window. His second Stockbridge studio, a 19th century carriage barn which was moved to the museum grounds in 1986, can be seen in the far right of the painting. The Old Corner House, the Norman Rockwell Museum’s first home, appears to the far left. He started painting this scene in 1957, but because of his busy schedule he didn’t finish it until ten years later, when it was subsequently published in McCall’s magazine.
[FITZPATRICK] He was a regular Red Lion Inn customer. You know, it wasn’t a big deal when he came in. Sometimes it was a big deal when some of his subjects came into the Red Lion. You think you’ve seen everything when you see John Wayne walking up the front steps of the Red Lion Inn buckling his gunbelt.
MUSIC: CHRISTMAS MUSIC
ROCKWELL CHAR: This perfect picture of Christmas in New England is actually my hometown- Stockbridge, Massachusetts, where we are right now. Brings back a lot of memories for me.
SFX: HORSE WHINNY, MUSIC STOPS ABRUPTLY
No, silly, the horses were long gone by the time we moved in!
Okay, pop quiz- how is this painting different from all the other paintings you’ve seen so far? If you guessed, “It’s all buildings, you can barely see the people!”, then, you’re right. I like to paint people, what can I say. I think faces are interesting. I painted this for McCall’s magazine in 1967, to go inside their Christmas issue. Actually, I started it in 1957- it took me ten years to finish it, I was so busy!
ABOUT – Home for Christmas
Norman Rockwell’s painting Home for Christmas has come to symbolize Christmas in New England, just as Rockwell intended in 1967. Rockwell wanted the editors at McCall’s to identify the scene as Stockbridge in the text — and they did.
Norman Rockwell takes you on a Christmas Eve walk along Stockbridge’s main street — past the public library, the antiques and gift shops, the insurance office, the supermarket behind its Greek-revival facade: past the barbershop, the old town office, the new town bank and down the rambling Victorian hotel, beyond which is Rockwell’s own studio.
McCall’s reached out to its national audience by adding, “Wherever you happen to hail from — city, suburb, farm or ranch — we hope you will have, for a moment, the feeling of coming home for Christmas.”
In addition to photographs taken of the buildings on Main Street, Rockwell drew on a variety of references to create his snowy winter scene. For sky and mountains, he used photos of snow-draped mountains in the Berkshire Hills, Vermont, and Switzerland. Prints of Siberian winter scenes provided examples of snow-covered streets. For the warm interior glows, he studied magazine images of candlelit country homes. For clothing styles, especially women’s coats, he relied on illustrations in a Sears & Roebuck catalogue. Rockwell’s assistant Louie Lamone photographed each building from a frontal point of view in support of Rockwell’s concept to create an artwork in the style of a 19th century limner documenting the important aspects of the town.
Established in 1773 as a stagecoach stop, The Red Lion Inn has always been the social hub of town. Its windows are darkened in Rockwell’s work because the Inn closed down in the winter until 1969, two years after this painting was published. Rockwell’s South Street home and studio appear at the far right border. In a window above the market, a Christmas tree glows in a room that was Rockwell’s studio from 1953 to 1957. The Old Corner House, which became the home of the first Norman Rockwell Museum two years after the painting was completed, stands at the left border of the painting.