128 – Shuffleton’s Barber Shop
Cover illustration for the Saturday Evening Post (April 29, 1950)
Oil on canvas
[NARRATOR] The day is over and this barbershop is closed. Maybe we’re just passing by on the street and glance in. Our eyes are drawn to the warm light in the back room, and the men who’ve gathered there.
The light spills out into the darkened shop, glinting off the stovepipe, the coal bucket, and picking out the dozens of meticulously rendered details that fill the room.
[KNUTSON] It makes them just beautiful sparkling things. I think he is making a comparison between those ordinary everyday objects and the … men in the background. Although they are old they are making something beautiful in their music.
[NARRATOR] Look at the bottom of the painting, in the right corner. Here the light points out a crack in the window, a reminder that we’re outside looking in. Originally, Rockwell simply painted the barbershop, and the musicians in the back. Only then did he decide to add the window frame and the partial lettering of the shop’s sign.
Maureen Hart Hennessey:
[HENNESSEY] And that addition really changes the painting completely and makes it, in a sense, a much more intimate scene, even though you’re more clearly on the outside, but really focuses you through the window and into the party going on in the back room.
[NARRATOR] Rockwell photographed the real Shuffleton’s Barbershop in Arlington, Vermont, where he lived at the time. He said that if he tried to imagine what a barbershop looked like, he would always omit the one detail that people would be looking for.