Thursday, March 10, 2011

TAM Docents: The Rockwell studio fire

Hello Docents-

Elizabeth has been so kind as to copy a passage form Rockwell's autobiography so that we can all now have it settled that he was, indeed, likely responsible for that big studio fire where he lost all of his props and, apparently, pipes.





Jana Wennstrom | TACOMA ART MUSEUM

Manager of Public and Volunteer Programs

T: 253.272.4258 x3030



American Chronicles: The Art of


February 26 – May 30, 2011


courage – family – innocence – freedom – history



Dear Jana:


Here's the information on the Rockwell studio fire in 1943.

I've been reading "My Adventures As An Illustrator" by Norman Rockwell


This is how Rockwell stated the studio fire, from Chaper XVI

I Rise from the Ashes


"Then, still recovering from the Four Freedoms, I painted a Boy Scout calendar, shipping it off to Brown and Bigelow in St. Paul, Minnesota, late one afternoon. And that night my studio burned to the ground.


It was my own fault.  Schaef and I had attended a hunting and fishing lecture given that evening at the high school by a mutual friend, Lee Wulff. Afterward the three of us had returned to my studio and talked until about half past eleven. As we left, I leaned over to switch off the fluorescent light, and ashes must have dropped from my pipe onto the cushion on the window seat, because the next thing I knew it was one-thirty in the morning and my son Tom was banging on the bedroom door and yelling, "Pop, the studio's on fire!"


I looked out the window. A storm of flame crackled red and molten gold in the interior of the studio and rolled in a thundering cloud of sparks and smoke through the roof. The leaves of the apple tree by the driveway glinted against the surrounding darkness.


Pulling on a pair of pants and buttoning my shirt, I ran downstairs and tried the phone. Dead. The wires came across the river and through the studio. Mr. Wheaton, our hired man, rushed out of his room...and I dispatched him in the car to Walt Squires' house, a half mile up the road, to call the fire department. Then I ran outside to see if anything could be saved.


But it was no use; I couldn't get within thirty feet of the studio. After a minute the .22 and shotgun shells I'd kept in a drawer began to explode..." 


and the story continues with the fire truck showing up, and saving as much as they could.............But in his next breath, Rockwell says,


"I didn't feel sad at all. Maybe I was in a state of shock. I was a bit troubled by the loss of all my pipes, but later that morning as I was poking about the ruins, several of the men in town arrived, bringing me some new pipes."


hmmmmm....if I had just lost my studio and all its contents due to my own smoking of a pipe, I'm not quite sure I'd be wanting new pipes....would you....................maybe he still was in shock?     continued


That's just a snippet. Visit your local library and request the book.  It's a good read, and so many other wonderful stories! Enjoy!


Elizabeth Walsh 





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