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…..but I know what I like…..

By Mike Cunningham On August 24th, 2017

Today, I would like to discuss something more important than left- or right-wing politics, President Trump’s impact on the world, North Korea or even Confederacy statues: it  is Art; the very stuff of life. Name a single politician who can grab an audience like a successful singer or musician can. Not ‘grab’ from a viewpoint of how intense or angry they might feel as a result of his words; but from the sense of true freedom which comes from listening to your favourite singer, or artist, from the spine-tingling which, for me, exists when I hear an opera piece, a violin solo; or from watching a slice of perfection laid down on a movie screen by way of watching ‘Casablanca’. We all have an interest in Art, it just comes in different disguises; to slice a statement short, it is one of the things which removes us from the animal kingdom: it makes us ‘Human’. I believe my opinions on so-called ‘Contemporary Art’ are both relevant, and trenchant.

Occasionally, the headlines might read ‘Export blocked for this…. ‘ceramic vase’ or that….’Renaissance Masterpiece’; bought by someone overseas; but the export of that particular object is considered a loss too important to the UK to be rubber-stamped, so one of the National Galleries is given the opportunity to raise the equivalent price paid, so that the seller does not lose out, and the object (vase, painting, sculpture) is ‘saved for the Nation’.

So, let us now turn to the painting which is the subject of my writing, which is (to this observer’s eye, as well as many others) the Norman Rockwell masterpiece ‘Shuffleton’s Barbershop’.

The painting looks through the window of the darkened Barbershop to the back room, where the (presumed) owner and two friends are playing musical instruments. The detail, the use of light and shade, the story which unfolds to the observer’s eye can, and does speak volumes: and this very painting has inspired a film with Danny Glover. But the painting lives in the Berkshire Museum, based in Pittsfield, Western Massachusetts, and the Museum has fallen upon hard times, with an annual deficit of $1.4 million. So it is looking to sell the Rockwell, along with some forty other pieces, so as to change itself for the future, embrace digital technology, multimedia demonstrations and gizmo science.

The big problem is, as far as I can see it, is that Rockwell donated the painting to the Museum; it is not a Museum asset; in actual fact, the painting is owned by the public; and if ‘Shuffleton’s Barbershop’ is placed on the auctioneer’s block, at an estimated value of $46 millions; it will disappear into some gazillionaire’s private collection, and be removed forever from the gaze of the public who now own it. One opinion was that if the Museum cannot pay its bills and keep the lights on without selling the very things which used to attract sponsorship and income, perhaps the Museum should consider closing its doors, after giving the excellent collection to Galleries and Museums who would look after them, and thus give access to a much wider audience to the ‘three old guys playing their kind of music, in private; for their own personal benefit and enjoyment alone!’


Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), “Shuffleton’s Barbershop,” 1950. Oil on canvas, 31″ x 33″. Cover illustration for “The Saturday Evening Post,” April 29, 1950. Collection of the Berkshire Museum. Norman Rockwell Museum Digital Collections. ©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

18 Responses to “…..but I know what I like…..”

  1. Great post.

  2. Superb picture

  3. A superb piece of art indeed, and agree with Mahons. Wonderful post Mike.

  4. Good post; I did not know about this story

    There is a Norman Rockwell Museum in western Massachusetts, that is supposed to be good

    You would hope that this painting could find a new home there, with some of its painting friends

  5. Outstanding stuff.

  6. Great stuff Mike. One of the highlights to my trip to London was to stroll through the National Portrait Gallery. I like the old masters. None of this “modern art” for me!

  7. I love Rockwell’s work he also has a small museum in Philly, but my favorite artists are the Wyeth’s and their family museum is in Chads Ford the Brandywine River Museum.



  8. Hey Charles how you feeling?

  9. //the Norman Rockwell masterpiece ‘Shuffleton’s Barbershop’.//

    That’s not art, it’s an illustration.

  10. Troll, doing better, thanks!

  11. Noel reveals his inner commie.

    Great art is conservative, and Rockwell painted a conservative scene. The small barber shop, a local artisan, signifying independence. The warm wood stove. Old friends in the back playing the music they’ve loved since they were school friends. The decency drips out.

    Enjoy it while you can. Some degenerate will notice that there are no black faces and attack it.

  12. Magnificent Pete 🙂

  13. The great Rockwell didn’t do many paintings with black characters, but he did at least one that dealt with the subject of racism very head on.


  14. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Problem_We_All_Live_With

    The Problem We All Live With is a 1964 painting by Norman Rockwell. It is considered an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.[2] It depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, on her way to William Frantz Elementary School, an all-white public school, on November 14, 1960, during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis. Because of threats and violence against her, she is escorted by four deputy U.S. marshals; the painting is framed such that the marshals’ heads are cropped at the shoulders.[3][4] On the wall behind her is written the racial slur “nigger” and the letters “KKK”; a smashed and splattered tomato thrown against the wall is also visible. The white protesters are not visible, as the viewer is looking at the scene from their point of view.[3] The painting is oil on canvas and measures 36 inches (91 cm) high by 58 inches (150 cm) wide.[5]

  15. Subversive commie trash.

  16. Love it Pete 🙂

  17. So Rockwell painted the barber shop in 1950 and the other one in 1964. We don’t need to read any further. He clearly suffered a mental decline during this period. It could have been the invention of homosexuality in 1963.

  18. //Rockwell painted the barber shop in 1950 and the other one in 1964//

    He was consistent in his twee.

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