Controversy over museum's decision to sell Norman Rockwell paintings

Last Updated Nov 7, 2017 7:42 PM EST

PITTSFIELD, Mass. -- Norman Rockwell spent much of his life in New England capturing the sweet and sentimental in small-town America, which paints the protests at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, with a certain irony.

Rockwell donated two works to the museum including his masterpiece, "Shuffleton's Barbershop."

Tom Rockwell, Norman's grandson, said there is "no question" that when Norman Rockwell donated the paintings, it was with the understanding that they would be permanently displayed at the museum.

"He loved that community, so for him, it was clearly an intent to give it to the people of the Berkshires and make it accessible for public view," Rockwell said.

"Well, we're hoping to raise $50 million," said Elizabeth McGraw, who chairs the museum's board. "And the Rockwell is honestly one of the most valuable pieces that we do have."  

With the museum facing tough times, it decided to auction them off.

"You know, I think it would be a sad state of affairs if this was an empty building, which is what we're facing," McGraw said.

She said that "at this point in time," that could be the only choice.

The Rockwell family sued to stop the sale.

axelrod-rockwell-2017-11-7.jpg

Painter Norman Rockwell

Norman Rockwell Museum Collections. ©Norman Rockwell Family Agency.

"We kind of feel like he'd be rolling over in his grave if he actually knew about this," Tom Rockwell said.

"It's a tough decision! It's a tough decision, don't get me wrong," McGraw said. "We have a trust with our community, we are entrusted with keeping this museum open."

Late Tuesday afternoon, the court ruled in favor of the museum, leaving them free to sell, and to remind us all of the difference between money and treasure.

  • Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the anchor of the Saturday edition of the "CBS Evening News" and a national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for the "CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley" and other CBS News broadcasts.