Rockwell is especially at his best when he is painting scenes of village life. The quiet atmosphere is revealed by a multitude of small details created from individual photos. After the Dutch masters of the 17th century Rockwell carefully checks the realistic geometry of lights and shadows.
By the intimacy of the theme and the complexity of the composition, Shuffleton's Barbershop published by the Saturday Evening Post on April 29, 1950 is one of his most successful covers. The 117 x 109 cm oil on canvas deaccessioned from the Berkshire Museum is estimated $ 20M for sale by Sotheby's in New York on November 13, lot 10.
The viewer looks through the large shop's window whose inscriptions are truncated at the edges. After the working day the light is off in the room. The stove, the sink, the magazine rack and the cat are waiting for the next day. Three men play their musical instruments in the light of the back shop without a risk of being disturbed.
In his compositions Rockwell re-assembles but does not invent. Rob Shuffleton is in real life the barber of the Vermont village where the artist settled in 1939 and he is also the seated man who holds the cello, half hidden behind the inner door.
In 1951 Rockwell painted another peaceful scene in the interior of a shop. Considered by a survey of readers as his best ever cover page, Saying Grace was sold for $ 46M including premium by Sotheby's on December 4, 2013.
The low resolution image of Shuffleton's Barbershop is shared for fair use by WikiArt :