(that’s “Birkshires” and not “Barkshires” by the way)
Overcast and showery weather meant that we didn’t feel too bad about planning a day which was going to be mostly spent indoors. We had a few ideas up our sleeve, for this area is packed with interesting places to visit and beautiful homes to see.
We began with somewhere we’d been before but were eager to see again. The last time we were here, we knew little of Norman Rockwell’s work but were immediately captivated by his art and the insight it offered to the world at that time.
The museum is a fine, modern building set in parkland and from the minute we stepped inside, we remembered what made it so special. There’s the same warmth about the place as emanates from the art on the walls and a feel-good atmosphere soon brings a smile to the face.
Of course, there are many familiar images on the walls here, including this one of Ruby Bridges going to school and during her introductory talk, docent Meg gave us an overview of Norman Rockwell’s life and work.
He frequently worked from photographs, taking care to create as near exact image as he could to prepare for the final painting. I found it interesting to see the preparatory work and the features which didn’t quite make it to the last and final painting.
In some cases, pretty major changes were made to emphasise a point, make a statement or simply to strengthen the composition.
Above all, the observations and attention paid to every small detail never fails to amuse and I could spend ages standing and looking at each picture for that very reason.
Another side exhibition was showing in a couple of rooms. Here, the unknown illustrations by Edward Hopper provided a contrasting style to the permanent Rockwell collection, depicting a rather more glamorous world of theatre and the arts.
Before we left, we wandered over to Norman Rockwell’s studio, in a barn which had been moved from its original site next to his former home in Stockbridge. It’s always interesting to see such places and here the neat and tidy nature of the man shone through, even in his absence.
Our next stop was in Stockbridge for a spot of lunch and a mooch around the main street depicted in one of Rockwell’s most familiar works. On this dreary, rainy day, sadly it wasn’t looking at its best, but the iris along the pathway to the library provided a glorious shot of colour and the friendly service in the village cafe made for a happy hour or so. Later, buying a couple of things in the Yankee Candle store, the assistant pointed out the location of one of the paintings we’d seen earlier, because this shop is in what used to be the old town hall. The window in The Marriage License is now the shop doorway and the shop assistants now stand where the young couple are shown in the picture.
Decision time now. Should we visit the home of Sculptor Daniel Chester French, recommended by Jane and Allan? Or perhaps visit Naumkeg Museum and Gardens, reputedly rather more than the “cottage” description we’d read earlier? Or had we reached cultural saturation point for today? Probably so.
Mary remembered passing the Crane Paper Mill yesterday, where the paper for US banknotes is made and where there was a small visitor centre. We were there in less than half an hour and noting the very limited opening hours on the sign, counted ourselves lucky that on this particular afternoon it was open.
There was a small museum on site and a guided showing about the manufacture of banknotes, particularly focusing on the security features of the new $100 bill. This family owned company, now run by the seventh generation has the monopoly on this business and though social stationery is still manufactured by them, the vast bulk of their work is the banknotes.
Examples of their products were on display in the museum and I found it interesting to read the kind responses sent to those who had written following sad events. I liked the card sent by former President Johnson and his wife on their return “to private life”, though I doubt vey much that it was anything of the kind.
A small shopping opportunity here, a rather larger one on the way home at an outlet shopping centre and the day was done. Just time for a couple of cups of tea to spill over the road atlas back at the hotel, for us to clear it up and dry the pages with a hair dryer before it was time to go out for supper.
There is never a dull moment on a road trip!