Model speaks out
The following is a response to Donald Keelan, pertaining to the book "The Life and Art of Norman Rockwell," written by Deborah Soloman. I believe the reason that no one has taken defense to this book is that a lot of the models and people of Arlington, during the time Norman Rockwell made his fame, are no longer around, or do not have access to the publications of the Arlington area. I at age 74 have to be one of the younger models still in the area. Many of Norman's models were also from outside of Arlington. We felt honored to have known and modeled for this great illustrator and artist. We have shared with our children and grandchildren how the Rockwell family was part of our lives during their time in the great valley of West Arlington, Vermont, where my two sisters and I were born and raised during our younger years.
Two small museums, one in Arlington and the other in Mendon/Rutland Vermont have done a great service to Norman Rockwell keeping his work out there for the public to enjoy. I am pleased they did not accept what Ms. Soloman has written about the Rockwells. As for Laurie Norton Moffatt, the Director of Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.; Stacy Schiff, the author of Cleopatra: a winner of the Pulitzer Prize in Biography; Roz Chast, New Yorker cartoonist, Bruce McCall, New York Illustrator, Daphne Merkin, author of Enchantment; I believe they were not give true facts to base their views of the book on. I do believe in the freedom of speech, but a biography is suppose to be "true facts. Not speculation or ones fantasy." Right?
My dad, one of my sisters, and I were models for Norman Rockwell. I can remember Mary Rockwell picking us up from school, and any adults whom had no means of transportation with the Rockwell's Woody station wagon car, and taking us to the studio. There our parents or others would help get us in the pose that Norman wanted. Gene Pelam was the photographer and also an artist. Gene would take the pictures and develop them. If Norman didn't like them we would do them over. Mary Rockwell very often would bring us cookies to eat while we waited. I am proud of the fact that my dad was in at least two of Norman's well known paintings, "The Boxer" and "The Tattoo Artist." the last name on dad's arm in the "Tattoo Artist" was to be "Belle," my mom's name. She would not let Norman use her name so he changed it to "Betty." Mom always said afterwards what a mistake it was. My sister was the little girl in the Up-john painting. This painting was held by Up-John for a long time before they released it. For me, I was the boy in all the "1949 Four Season Calendar," one of the boys in "Coming and Going" was the first "Choir Boy" and the two boys with the girl running around the postman at Christmas these were done for Hallmark. I have the original photographs of the "Choir Boy" that the Hallmark cards were painted from. Norman belonged to the Battenkill Grange #487. My mom was in charge of the programs for the Grange. She often had Norman bring his easel and papers. Those attending would make marks on the paper and Norman would transform those marks into a picture. Then he would sign and give the picture to the mark maker. In the summer Norman would sell the tickets for the dances that were held Saturday nights on the green, a Grange fundraiser.
Norman and Mary along with my mom and dad were many times on a radio program for WGY, [80 on the radio dial] in Schenectady N.Y. I have the pictures of them in the studio in front of the microphones.
If one wants to read a story with all the truths please read James (Bud) Edgertons' book "The Unknown Rockwell."
Norman's best work was done during his years in Arlington and why Ms. Soloman has taken the time to write untrue depictions is hard to understand.
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