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Berkshires, Massachusetts

Berkshire County: Art Museums

The Berkshires are an area of natural beauty in western Massachusetts, bordering Connecticut, New York, and Vermont, that has long been a favorite vacation destination. During the Gilded Age of the late 19th century, when Vanderbilts, Sloanes, and Morgans were building hundred-room “cottages” there, the Berkshires was dubbed “The Inland Newport.” More recently (2009), National Geographic named the Berkshires one of the ten best destinations on Earth, deeming it “a cultural hideaway.” The leading art museums in the Berkshires, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MASS MoCA), and the Norman Rockwell Museum are as highly regarded in the art world as their Berkshire neighbors are in their own niches: Tanglewood, summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival, and the Berkshire and Williamstown Theatre Festivals.

Located less than ten miles apart in the northern Berkshires, the Clark Art Institute and Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art present permanent and changing exhibitions that can satisfy the most diverse tastes in the visual arts. For example, the permanent collection at the Clark includes works by Renoir, Monet, Homer, and Sargent, whereas visitors to MASS MoCA can view a massive installation of work by Sol LeWitt through 2033! Less than an hour’s drive away are the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, where the beloved painter lived for 25 years, and Chesterwood, the studio museum where Daniel Chester French sculpted the seated Lincoln for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC. (Dave Conlin Read)

Berkshires Art Museums: Art Museums Around Berkshires

Below are our Berkshires Art Museum recommendations, with information on location, admission, transportation/parking, museum history and other points of interest in Berkshires Art.

Berkshire Museum

Pittsfield’s Berkshire Museum is something of a throwback to the days when museums collected just about everything and decided what to do with it later. This gigantic old stone building has, over the past century, amassed significant collections of 19th and 20th century American art and sculpture; fossils from the age of the dinosaurs; an entire gallery of rocks and minerals; mummies and sarcophagi from ancient Babylonia; and jewelry and …more…

Frelinghuysen Morris House & Studio

Abstract painter George L. K. Morris built himself a studio on the grounds of his family’s estate, Brookhurst, after he returned from Paris in 1929; it was the first Modernist structure built in New England. By 1941, now married to painter and singer Suzy Frelinghuysen, he added a Le Corbusier-inspired house to the studio. Preserved as it was when the couple lived and worked there, the House and Studio …more…

Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA)

Housed on the grounds of the old Sprague Electric Company in North Adams, MASS MoCA’s grounds span 13 acres and encompass a vast complex of 19th-century factory buildings that occupy nearly one-third of the city’s downtown business district. The museum’s 26 buildings allow for 110,000 square feet of open, flexible gallery space and exhibits of work by many of the most important artists of today. ...more...

Norman Rockwell Museum

The Rockwell Museum is not only the comprehensive look at the life and work of Norman Rockwell, still one of the most beloved artists that America has ever produced; it also seeks to put Rockwell and his work into context by examining his contributions to society, popular culture and social commentary. Housed in a Robert A.M. Stern building high on a hill just outside Stockbridge, the museum’s idyllic environs are an apt setting for Rockwell’s nostalgic portraits of the 1940s and 50s. ...more...

Smith College Museum of Art

Despite its sprawl and reputation, Smith College sometimes gets overshadowed by other nearby academic monoliths. (Harvard is still Harvard, after all.) Don’t let this keep you from considering a visit to the Smith College Museum of Art; SCMA’s permanent collection is more than twenty thousand pieces strong. Many of those are works on paper, which are housed in the Cunningham Center for the Study of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, a …more…

Sterling and Francine Clark Institute

The Clarks were wealthy, well-known New York art collectors in the early years of the 20th century who initially intended to establish a museum in Manhattan to house their collection. A change of heart (and some Cold War-inspired uneasiness) led them to Williamstown, where Sterling Clark’s father and grandfather had been trustees at Williams College; the Clark Institute ultimately opened in 1955, on 140 rolling, woody acres.

Though the Clarks themselves …more…

Williams College Museum of Art (Williamstown, MA)

The first thing that visitors to the Williams College Museum of Art will likely notice is Louise Bourgeois’ 2001 sculpture, Eyes (Nine Elements), which was commissioned as part of the museum’s 75th anniversary. Another variation on a frequent Bourgeois theme, the sculpture’s title is accurate – it’s a collection of giant eyes, some bronze and some granite, two of which are set into the ground next to the museum’s main path. At night, the pupils light up. It’s a fitting introduction to the quirky WCMA, a teaching museum dedicated to instruction through art as well as about it. ...more...