Letter: Rockwell's masterpiece was donated to us all
I must take issue with Elizabeth McGraw's justification for the Berkshire Museum selling Norman Rockwell's masterpiece, "Shuffleton's Barbershop" (Eagle, Op/Ed, Nov. 12). I realize there are other pieces slated for auction, but this particular work is one that has provoked an emotional response — and for good reason.
Rockwell gave this to the people of Berkshire County by donating it to the museum. To those who question what Rockwell would have wanted, the clue to this is in the painting itself. One need only look at "Shuffleton's Barbershop" to see Rockwell's heart and what he would have wanted. One's first impression might be of a masterful treatment of shadow and light — reminiscent of Rembrandt. But let the painting sink in a bit more and one focuses on the light at the heart of the piece — a simple, humble scene of local folks socializing in a cozy back room.
Rockwell loved the people of the Berkshires; he used them in many of his painting. This particular work, spoken of as his masterpiece, is nothing if not a love letter to his people. The museum's directors may sincerely believe it necessary to sell what it has been given to secure its future, but it is not what Rockwell would have wanted.
It's also true that many in the Berkshires may never visit a metropolitan art museum, but that's all the more reason to protect our legacy in this priceless work. To monetize it allegedly to save the museum begs the question: What are we saving the museum for? Isn't its primary mission to safeguard these works on behalf of its donors and for us, the public, displaying them for the enjoyment of all? "For what does a man prosper if he gains the world and loses his soul?"
I believe our museum loses something precious and violates the trust of Norman Rockwell if it sells this painting. It belongs to us — it was entrusted to their care on our behalf. Rockwell didn't give it to the museum because he thought it needed money. He wanted all of us to enjoy it. He cannot speak for himself so we must speak for him. We know him, we know what he would want. He gave so much to us; he told our story in the most beautiful way. The least we can do to thank him is rally to keep his gift where it belongs.
I sincerely hope that our attorney general is successful in stopping this sale.
The writer is a former resident of Berkshire County.
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