PITTSFIELD, Mass. – Members of Norman Rockwell’s family are the latest to speak out against a Massachusetts museum’s plan to sell the illustrator’s works.
The family in a letter published in Friday’s print edition of The Berkshire Eagle asked the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield not to auction “Shuffleton’s Barbershop.”
The museum is selling 40 artworks, including two by Rockwell, to build endowment funds and finance renovations.
The letter, signed by Rockwell’s three sons and three of his grandsons, says they fear it will go to a private collector at auction, and will no longer be available to the public.
“We believe that this painting is one of Norman Rockwell’s finest and should stay at a public institution, so that it can be seen,” the letter said.
The letter doesn’t mention the other Rockwell piece on the auction block, “Blacksmith’s Boy-Heel and Toe” also known as “Shaftsbury Blacksmith Shop.” But Margaret Rockwell, manager of the Norman Rockwell Family Agency, tells the paper the family opposes the sale of that one as well. Both were created for The Saturday Evening Post.
Both oil paintings were gifts to the museum from the artist. Rockwell lived in nearby Stockbridge for the last 25 years of his life.
The sale of all 40 works has been denounced by two national museum organizations that said selling pieces of a collection to pay bills violates a cardinal rule of the museum industry. Local artists have also spoken out against the sale.
The Berkshire Museum, founded in 1903, said it hopes the sale will raise $40 million for its endowment and $20 million for renovations as it refocuses its mission on science and natural history.
The president of the museum’s trustees says she appreciates the Rockwell family’s passion, but the auction will proceed.
“The board and the museum will move ahead as planned in order to ensure the success and longevity of the museum and its increasingly integral role in the community,” Elizabeth McGraw said in an email to the paper.
The auction is expected to take place this fall.