Tuesday 5 October 2010

Tuesday afternoon post

Ssssh. Even Google doesn't know about this: that there's a pharmacy in Manukau Road with a ripped-off Norman Rockwell mural on the side of it. Oh! Me and my big mouth!

As is evident from the picturesquely - and fortuitously selective - peeling paint, it's been there for years and years, through several changes of ownership though it's always been a chemist's as far as I know (I'm not an Aucklander). So seemingly they've got away with this infringement of copyright; because I'd bet my bottom dollar the original bright spark who thought, rightly, how appropriate this painting would be for his business, never approached Norman himself to ask permission (or his estate - he died in 1978).

I only ever see it on the way to the airport, so I associate it with exciting things - but a couple of years ago it was a teaser for what was to come, because on our Massachusetts trip we went to the Norman Rockwell Museum at Stockbridge. It's a beautiful old heritage building set in parklike grounds where Norman's studio has been moved as well; it all looked fabulous in October with the fall foliage bright in the sunshine.

I know very little about art, but I know not to be a snob, so I thoroughly enjoyed cruising round the galleries studying some of the 570 paintings and drawings on display there, as well as the full set of 323 Saturday Evening Post covers down in the basement. My parents sometimes bought that magazine and I remember studying the covers with the sort of avid interest that only a bored child living in the pre-TV era could summon up; so some of them felt like old friends.

Sure they're sentimental and idealised, but also sweet and sincere and loving; and no-one could fault his skill with the brush. My current favourite, though I have many, is Breaking Home Ties, of the rough old farmer waiting with his scrubbed and eager son for the train that's to take him away to college. SO sappy, but beautifully done, with lovely detail.

And an amazing back-story too: the original was bought in 1960 for $900 by a cartoonist, who copied it before secretly hiding it away in case his ex-wife got her mitts on it. When he died, his sons discovered it behind a false wall in his house and Sotheby's sold it in 2006 for $15.4 million. The museum sold me this one for $2.50. Ssssh. Don't tell Google it's here.

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