WILL a truce ever be declared in America’s culture wars? One way to tackle that puzzle involves considering all-American icons of the past—figures who bridged social and political divides—and asking how they did it. That mission led Lexington to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and the Norman Rockwell Museum. Modelled on a New England town hall, it is a handsome shrine to an artist whose work has hung in the Oval Offices of the past four presidents (though a Rockwell painting of the Statue of Liberty’s torch seems to have vanished from Donald Trump’s).
Rockwell lived from 1894 to 1978 and enjoyed popular acclaim for 60 of those years. He honed an image as an apolitical advocate of Yankee civic virtues, at one remove from the sordid business of party politics, even as he painted every major presidential candidate from Eisenhower to Nixon. His biographer, Laura Claridge, records his belief that the best way to reach a large audience was “to let people hope he voted their…Continue reading