This book is the first to tell the stories of Norman Rockwell’s models and their time in his studio.
In 1940, America’s favorite illustrator Norman Rockwell, his wife Mary and their three sons moved to the picturesque rural village of West Arlington, Vermont. The artist discovered a treasure trove of models. Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and out of the Studio is the first to detail these models’ lives, friendships with the artist, and experiences in his studio.
Dressed in quaint work clothing, the models were dairy farmers, carpenters, country doctors, soldiers, and mechanics. Norman Rockwell’s Models features non-fiction narratives telling the story of these folks during an era when they helped the war effort, farmed with horses, and received home visits from doctors. The book also describes the challenges the models faced in their own lives and how these affected their expressions in the paintings. For example, in several 1945 masterpieces, the jubilance Americans felt after the close of the second word war is revealed in their faces.
Upon meeting people, young or old, the artist would say, “Call Me Norman.” Rockwell learned the models’ roles in the community and their personalities, which fostered genuine paintings. He strove, for example, to find real-life soldiers to model as WWII heroes and spirited boys and girls for lively paintings. In the studio, Norman was charming and polite, but painstaking. He demonstrated poses and did whatever was necessary to evoke his trademark expressions, including telling stories of his own life, sometimes laughing or crying.
Spending entire summers at his family’s farmhouse near West Arlington, Vermont, the author, S.T. Haggerty, grew up knowing many models, including those who posed for such iconic works as Freedom of Speech, Breaking Home Ties, and Girl at the Mirror. Along with models and their families, the author hayed the scenic fields in the Batten Kill River Valley and swam under the red covered bridge on the Village Green. This experiences give him a unique perspective for telling this story.
S.T. Haggerty is a longtime writer of fiction, non-fiction and poetry. He is known for his intriguing, heartfelt, and lively storytelling. He received his B.S. from Southern Vermont College, and M.A. in Journalism from the University of South Carolina. He lives in Pawling, New York.
Biographical Sketches for the Models
About the Author
Poet and former editor Haggerty dives deep into the work of Norman Rockwell in this illuminating survey, his debut. Uncovering “the backstories of the friends and neighbors who posed for Rockwell in the quaint, rural village of West Arlington, Vermont,” Haggerty, who spent summers in West Arlington from the age of three, uses his familiarity with the town and its locals to limn the lives of “the dairy farmers, carpenters, country doctors, soldiers, mechanics, and spirited children” who modeled as the subjects of some of Rockwell’s greatest hits. Among them are Carl Hess, the owner of the gas station Rockwell frequented, who posed in 1943 for Freedom of Speech; Ruthie McLenithan, who modeled as a girl playing marbles in Marbles Champion; and Rockwell’s housekeeper Marie Briggs, who was depicted in We the Peoples, a work currently displayed in the United Nations headquarters in New York City. Haggerty explores the dynamic exchange between artist and sitter and sheds light on the mechanics that created Rockwell’s sentimental, romanticized work (attuned to fine details, Rockwell dictated every aspect of the scenes he painted, sometimes by “coaxing exact expressions from his carefully selected models”). This peek into the workshop of an icon of Americana will delight Rockwell’s fans.
Norman Rockwell's Models is the first to tell the stories of Norman Rockwell's models and their time in his studio and a 'must' for the legions of Norman Rockwell fans.
Haggerty weaves together a portrait of Rockwell, but more importantly gives life to his models — the shopgirl exhausted by the Christmas rush, a woman and boy praying over the dinner, a girl with a black eye outside the principal's office, a marine returning home from war and the family that greets him. Haggerty not only introduces you to the models, but also allows you to get to know them, as individuals beyond the Rockwellian avatars that America loves so dearly.
Haggerty’s work is in itself a work of art. He has, much like Rockwell, paid great attention to detail. For fans of Rockwell’s illustrations and even for those who simply wish to understand an important aspect of 20th-century America, Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and Out of the Studio is an important work. Furthermore, it is a very fine piece of writing.”
This is a wonderful project.
"You've got to read these stories!"
"Norman Rockwell's Models captures intimate details of the artist's relationships with his models and the environment in which he created his most powerful and beloved images. The first-hand anecdotes from his children, neighbors, friends, and colleagues shed a new light on his career. A must read for anyone who is a fan of Norman Rockwell and illustration art."
"Steve Haggerty's unique book tells riveting stories of Norman Rockwell's Arlington, Vermont models."
"As one who posed for Norman Rockwell, I was delighted to read the wonderful recollections and stories of his models. You will see the true dedication S.T. Haggerty has shown to honor the true, timeless work of Norman Rockwell."
Haggerty’s work is in itself a work of art. He has, much like Rockwell, paid great attention to detail. For fans of Rockwell’s illustrations and even for those who simply wish to understand an important aspect of 20th-century America, Norman Rockwell’s Models: In and Out of the Studio is an important work. Furthermore, it is a very fine piece of writing.
October/November issue, Guideposts: Steve Haggerty’s article about the story behind Norman Rockwell’s celebrated Thanksgiving painting Freedom From Want is running in the latest issue.
1/12/23, Choice: This book was featured in a roundup of forthcoming titles in art & architecture.
2/14/23, New York Weekly: Steve Haggerty wrote a piece about the book.
3/8/23, WAMC Northeast Public Radio / The Roundtable: Steve Haggerty was interviewed about the book.
3/3/23, The Historians podcast: Steve Haggerty joined Bob Cudmore to discuss the book.
5/10/23, Seven Days: A feature article about the book says, “Norman Rockwell's Models is a trove of charming small-town lore, backstories that helped build a legend…. Haggerty's book comes along at an opportune time to refresh and preserve the fondest and most poignant Rockwell memories — those of the people who gave his work its enduring vitality and character.”