The painting is one of the most intricately detailed works from an illustrator with a mania for minutiae: faithfully reproduced ironwork scrolling on the barber chair and cozy stove, comic books on the rack, and chipped paint on a windowpane molding. The painting “stands as one of the finest displays of Norman Rockwell’s talent as an artist,” says Jeremy Clowe of the Norman Rockwell Museum.
For all the painting’s detail and masterful lighting and composition, it is the after-hours peek into the back room that draws us, as barber trades his scissors and razor for a cello to make music with his friends.
Echoes of Rockwell’s painting appear in the new movie A Way Back Home, a Hallmark Movie Channel original starring four-time Emmy nominee Danny Glover as barber Charlie Shuffleton and Austin Stowell as Trey Cole, a celebrity coming to the realization that he has lost himself along the way.
Trey has severed ties with his past and didn’t even return home when his brother died serving in the military. But now memories are stirring, like that old barbershop and his first haircut in the brown leather chair and how Charlie (Glover) took him under his wing when he was a boy, when his own father was cold and often absent. Returning to the barbershop in one of the film’s opening scenes, Trey notices a trio of musicians playing in a dimly lit back room as in Rockwell’s original painting.
“For his cover illustration for the April 29, 1950, issue of The Saturday Evening Post, Rockwell turned to Rob Shuffleton’s barbershop in East Arlington, Vermont,” said Clowe.
Yes, Shuffleton’s Barbershop was a real place; it was where America’s favorite artist went for a trim. “Similar to how he employed both neighbors and family as subjects for his work, Rockwell also found artistic inspiration from his surroundings,” Clowe explains.
The cello player sitting in the interior room is Rob Shuffleton, whom Rockwell once called “a tonsorial virtuoso who always trims his locks exactly the right length.” Shuffleton’s Barbershop was a place, like the little town of Arlington, Vermont, itself, where a world-famous artist could go and be treated like everyone else—just the way he liked it.
As you watch the movie, which premiered Saturday, June 1, look for ways Rockwell’s painting inspired the feature-length film.