Day Seven

Today we visited two places: Norman Rockwell Museum and Simon's Rock College.

Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), an American illustrator, may be unfamiliar to the Chinese people, but he was recognized and loved by almost everybody in America.

Rockwell was born in New York City on February 3, 1894. When he was nine years old, his family moved to the small town of Mamaroneck, New York. He was a skinny boy and not very athletic, so he chose drawing as his hobby.

At age 18, Rockwell became art editor of Boy's Life, the official magazine of the Boy Scouts of America. When he was 22 years old, one of his paintings appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post, which later became his showcase for 47 years, giving him an audience larger than that of any other artist in history. Over the years he depicted there a unique collection of Americana, a series of vignettes of remarkable warmth and humor. In addition, he painted a great number of pictures for story illustrations, advertising campaigns, posters, calendars, and books.

When he was 69 years old, he stopped the collaboration with The Saturday Evening Post and started contributing to the magazine Look. He turned his attention to poverty, protest against racial discrimination and space experiments, which showed his mellow viewpoints in art.

Norman Rockwell Museum is located in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, near the border of New York State. It lies in a mist-curling hill. Brooks, meadows and cottages are extraordinarily quiet in the white snow. In a clearing in front of the museum tower rows of erect pine trees, which appears special. On the meadow there are two settees facing the quiet pinewood, and the building of the museum, resembling a common dwelling, is hiding itself deep in a corner of the clearing.

The number of the visitors here is not very big, but most of them are of good taste. At the entrance of the museum, we were greeted by three old ladies. When we got into the lobby, we found that the staff here were all elderly persons. There used to be an oldish "young man" when I came here two years ago, but there was no sign of him this year. Looking at these old people and their worship of Rockwell, we were not quite accustomed to that at first. However, an immediate thought crossed our minds that, since we were here to visit the museum, we could also be reckoned as persons of good taste!

Then we followed the appointed guide and entered the exhibition hall full of artistic flavor. Those which most impressed me were the four pictures depicting the famous "four freedoms" in President Franklin Roosevelt's speech: Freedom of Speech, Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Want and Freedom from Fear. These four pictures were painted around 1943 when the United States met with the hardest period in World War II. The conceiving ideas came from the following passage in President Roosevelt's State of Union Message on January 6, 1941:

"In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression – everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way – everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want, which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants – everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear, which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor – anywhere in the world."

The guide took us to an exhibition hall downstairs near the end of our visit. Here we could find nearly all the cover pictures Rockwell painted for The Saturday Evening Post. The guide explained that, limited by the printing technique, Rockwell only used black, white and red for his paintings before 1926, and he didn't begin to use all the colors until 1926. So the development of printing technology was well reflected here.

The visit ended. On the way back, we made a brief stop at Stockbridge, a small town where Rockwell used to live. In a slight unawareness we seemed to see that the painter was painting with great passion, capturing the desolation in the world.