Tag Archives: Massacusetts

Did you Know that Norman Rockwell Intentionally Changed his Signature for each Piece of Art?

7 Dec

Norman Rockwell Museum signNorman Rockwell was profound in his depiction of daily life–idyllic or struggling or controversial. And given this range of topics, he thought it was appropriate to change his signature based on the mood of each painting.

Inspiration from America
“The commonplaces of America are to me the richest subjects of all.” He chose moments with people, my travels take me to spaces. But I agree with him, it’s why I love traveling this country. There’s so much that is simultaneously breath-taking and breath-giving.

Experiencing the Museum
The Norman Rockwell Museum is in Stockbridge, MA, in the Berkshires. The exhibit itself is surprisingly limited – so many pieces on loan to other museums. But here you get a deeper education about his process: posing neighborhood folks for pictures and then painting proper oil on canvas from the shots. Those were then taken to the magazines for publication – actual canvas. I think of the juxtaposition of modern photography instead of sketches, yet canvas was still needed, or preferred, for the final product.

Wall of Saturday Evening Post CoversThe Power of the Saturday Evening Post
And then there’s the room with all 323 Saturday Evening Post covers. It’s a sight to behold – a life’s work displayed row upon row. His first cover was published at age 22 and his last 47 years later. Travel was a common theme: off to the watering hole, the honeymoon or to war. He depicted the adventure, weariness, wariness.

Embraced by an Exhibit
Sure, I’ve seen his work before, even been to the traveling exhibit with the large canvases from the Saturday Evening Post. I wasn’t prepared for how connected I would feel to his work, for how touching I would find it. For how the details would catch my eye and give me respect for an era and for a man. He truly painted with heart, loved the stories he told, and believed strongly in the messages he had opportunity to convey. I’m not an art historian to assess his talent against Michelangelo. But to me that’s a merit-less debate: they had different roles in the world.

Who do you consider to be an expression of the changes in America – past of present?

These are a few the pieces that particularly caught my eye. Can’t see the slideshow? Click here.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Norman Rockwell, posted with vodpod

Why a Stationery Museum is Sooo much more Interesting than You’d Expect

5 Dec
Sign at the Crane Museum of Papermaking

This was the only picture to take, so by all means, relish it!

Crane Stationery has been making the paper for US currency since the Revolutionary War. Yup, write a thank you note, make some ACTUAL cash–all goes together in a perfect business model, doesn’t it?

There’s Nothing to See Here
The Museum of Papermaking is in the Berkshires, housed on the property where paper for money really is being made. An innocuous site until you notice the security. And unmarked semi trucks. And fences. And oddly they point all of this out to you on the tour… diversion tactics or an eager tour guide? Either way, makes a good story.

The First Gig
In 1879 the US government selected Crane  as the sole producer of banknote paper for the first national currency. And they’ve been the producer ever since.

Working Hard for the Money
There’s no job security, though. Only within the last few years has the government become prudent enough to award the contract for more than a year at a time. Now it’s a four-year stint. Can you imagine the paperwork for an annual proposal? No pun intended. I’m sure it was a security thing, but come on, that’s serious inefficiency.

No Such Thing as Easy Money
The currency paper and anti-counterfitting measures are both made at Crane, with different security tactics for each denomination. The actual printing happens at the Treasury. The watermark process is so secretive that it’s imprinted on the plant floor behind guarded curtains. Crane is so respected for their money-making work that they do it for 15 countries and also print their currency.  

(Not) Made in the USA
Ironically, American money is not made using American product. The cotton comes from all over the world except the US of A. Quality and cost, my friends. Yeah for capitalism! And FYI on the cotton, it’s the tiny shreds left in the boll after the initial “extraction”, not the parts used for clothes. Take about using everything but the squeal.

Well What About the Stationery?
If it’s got cold edges, it really is gold leaf. That’s applied by hand and takes a year to master the art. And talk about quality control: every sheet of paper is inspected by hand before being cut to size.

So now we know why their stationery costs a bit more.
Do you think it’s worth it?
Do you still use stationery?
Can you come up with money puns that I didn’t already include in this post?

Like to be surprised by seemingly mundane museums that turn out to be amazing? Check out this past post about the Clock and Watch Museum.

A Memorial to a Memorializer…?

2 Dec

Model of Lincoln Memorial at ChesterwoodThe Lincoln Memorial is impressive, yes? Ever take the time to consider how the sculpture came to life? Neither had I.

Enter Chesterwood, the home and studio of the man who created Lincoln for the memorial. To be clear, he was “merely” the sculptor, not the conceiver.

Daniel Chester French practiced with nearly 100 plaster models before perfecting the final for the monument. And now his home is a monument to him, for the work he did on a monument. Can you say, “Who’s on first”?

I have to confess that this stop didn’t capture my imagination or fascination. Perhaps because a 15-minute-drive earlier I had been at the Norman Rockwell museum, an artist whom I adore.

But that’s the incredible thing about the Berkshires, amid this spectacular wilderness, so many talented people did and still do find inspiration. There’s man-made and G-d-made art at every bend.