Day 30: Meeting a model for Norman Rockwell’s paintings is BTS

As planned, A.T. and I were up by seven to get ready for a day of festivities at the Charles River Esplanade. The weather forecast the previous weekend said the Fourth of July in Boston would be in the crisp, seething 90s. But, as we looked out the window every half hour – ominous, heavy clouds making themselves at home in the New England sky – A.T.’s meticulously planned and much-anticipated picnic seemed less and less of a possibility. “Too bad,” I thought. My visit was anchored on the Fourth of July celebration in Boston being BTS, and A.T. wanted to make good on that.

On the flip side, what we evidently had on our hands was an off-season “Snow Day”. In no time, I was busy hatching new plans for the day ahead of us. The day before, A.T. and I talked briefly about going to the Berkshires and visiting the Norman Rockwell Museum, where he had bought a print of “Christmas at Stockbridge” a few weeks prior. So off we drove and made it there in two hours.

For the longest time, Rockwell’s keen, irreverent tableaux of twentieth-century Americana had few fans among highbrow art critics, who thought him little more than a glorified caricaturist or comic book illustrator. But looking past the puckish, mimetic sheen of his iconic covers for the Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell turns out to be a mythologist, his slice-of-life scenes weaving narratives of the greenhorn’s odyssey, from runaway boys to baseball rookies (pictured below). It comes as no surprise that he was commissioned to illustrate books like Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Perhaps that’s why his paintings hit close to home. It’s the greenhorn in me, equal parts abandon and ambition, that can’t wait to stake a claim on his little corner of the world. I have to say, although my heart belongs to Edward Hopper in the pantheon of American painters, I’m becoming rather fond of Norman, too.

At 60, the native New Yorker moved to Stockbridge, Massachusetts (where the museum is located) and continued to paint there until his death. He generally used his friends and neighbors as his models, often hiring photographers to capture his models in various setups and scenarios for Rockwell to choose from. I was lucky today to meet one of Rockwell’s models, a Stockbridge local, Mrs. Claire Williams, who posed for Rockwell in a couple of his illustrations and paintings (which add up to more than 4,000). In the photo, she is holding one of the sketches that Rockwell did of her in 1959. Behind her is a panel of Rockwell’s “Christmas at Stockbridge”. (A.T. told me that the buildings in the painting look exactly the same as they did when Rockwell did it so, every Christmas Day, the town closes off the street and recreates the scene from Rockwell’s opus down to the last detail.) What can I say, getting to vicariously experience a maestro at work is BTS.  

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2 Responses to “Day 30: Meeting a model for Norman Rockwell’s paintings is BTS”

  1. When the 100 days are over, will you be a model for us?

  2. *the storyteller Says:

    oi!!! u didn’t tell me u went to the norman rockwell museum!!!!

    i love NR!!! i have 3 of his paintings back in my room in cebu =)

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