POSTS BY BLAKE HOWE

  • NORMAN ROCKWELL’S SHUFFLETON’S BARBERSHOP: A MUSICAL–ICONOGRAPHICAL RIDDLE

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    © The Author 2008. Published by Oxford University Press. All rights reserved.

    The tendency of the Vermonter . . . is to try to see how the isolated detail that comes before his eyes in the daily round is related to larger matters.

    —Dorothy Canfield Fisher, preface to Walter Hard’s A Mountain Township (1953)

    Since appearing on the cover of the Saturday Evening Post on 29 April 1950, Norman Rockwell’s Shuffleton’s Barbershop has been recognized as one of the artist’s greatest works (Figure 1).1 The painting occupies a unique position among Rockwell’s Post covers for its calm narrative simplicity: with the furnace aglow during a chilly evening, a group of musicians rehearse in the back room of a barbershop, providing a brief, anecdotal glimpse into their musical lives. No less a critic than John Updike wrote admiringly of “the coziness of the details Rockwell has chosen to illuminate, and . . . the cozy implication that at the back of every small-town barbershop lurks a bunch of music-loving old men; but the barber chair, the reflected light on the stovepipe, the crack in the corner of the big window the viewer is looking through—this is an amazing painting.”2

     

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