When Norman’s first studio in Vermont burned down in 1943, he, his wife Mary, and sons Jarvis, Thomas, and Peter moved to this 1792 Colonial house on the West Arlington, Village Green. The Edgerton family, whose members appeared in many paintings, lived in the second of the “Twin Houses” at left. Norman’s close friend Jim Edgerton appears twice in Food Package From Home behind the first two men. Click here.
Rockwell studio. Norman’s former studio stands in the back yard of his former home, and it was there he created the Four Freedoms and many other iconic paintings.
Norman enjoyed a glamorous country club lifestyle in New Rochelle, NY. He even socialized with the F. Scott Fitzgerald crowd. In Vermont, his favorite event became square dancing. He would stand at this railing and collect tickets, all the while scoping the crowd for models.
It is likely people began swimming in the Batten Kill river under the covered Bridge when it was built in 1867. In the forties and fifties, Norman’s wife Mary would sit on a towel on the bank and watch her sons Jarvis, Tommy, and Peter. Used to the warmer Long Island Sound water in New Rochelle, Norman did not care for the brisk water, but he would wade so that he could teach his son Peter to swim.
From inside their home, the Rockwells had a view of the dance pavilion, 1802 church, and the covered bridge on the Village Green.
Former Rockwell Vermont home looks festive in autumn.
Author S.T. Haggerty stayed in Norman’s former studio for a few days and enjoyed lounging in front of the fireplace where Norman would stretch out and take naps.
Many children in the valley worked for farmer and Rockwell model Jim Edgerton (on top of hay) at one time or another. His daughter and model Ardis Edgerton Clark, far left, wrote letters to Art Becktoft (young man in the middle) when Art’s fighter plane was shot down over Germany during WWII. After Art returned to Vermont from P.O.W. camp, Norman used him as a model for 1945 Saturday Post cover, as a young man happy to be home from war. Also, little Billy Brown sits in front of the group. Norman loved Billy’s lively spirit and used him for Going and Coming as the boy who has stuck his upper out the window. Photo courtesy of Ardis Edgerton Clark. Click here to see Art in BACK TO CIVIES. Click here to see Billy in Going and Coming.
Farmers in West Arlington enjoyed field-raised meats, garden vegetables, and a beautiful landscape along the Batten Kill river, but generally didn’t have a lot of cash. Credit cards had not been invented yet and bank loans were not so easy to get. If you had an old sap house like the Edgerton family, patching it up with old boards kept it going. Norman’s son Tommy, who lived next door, liked to help make syrup with the Edgerton family, which modeled for many paintings. Courtesy of Ardis Edgerton Clark.
Norman’s next-door neighbor Buddy Edgerton posed many times as a Boy Scout, but was known as “The Scout who was never a scout.” Buddy and Tommy Rockwell became instant friends. They worked on the Edgerton dairy farm together, played basketball in the hayloft, fished the Batten Kill, and camped on Big Spruce Mountain behind their homes. Buddy, who knew Norman about as well as any kid in Vermont, wrote an intriguing book called Unknown Rockwell, and former University of Vermont professor and is a popular speaker on Rockwell. Tommy Rockwell posed for READING HIS SISTER’S DIARY Click here.
Models Jarvis Rockwell and Ardis Edgerton Clark, along with S.T. Haggerty, posed for a photo at a Vermont Models’ Reunion as they reminisce about the people they grew up with in West Arlington. Jarvis modeled for several paintings, including SAYING GRACE AND MARBLES CHAMPION as the boy in a red hat. Click here.
Factory owners, business executives, and principals felt honored when Norman asked to scout for models in their buildings. In an Arlington School classroom, Norman discovered Don Hubert Jr., left, who posed as the little boy in Saying Grace. Click here.
Floyd Bentley, model for Breaking Home Ties. Norman absolutely loved the weatherworn face of horse trainer and dairy farmer Floyd Bentley, who posed for Breaking Home Ties, a 1954 Post cover, the second favorite of Saturday Evening Post covers. A boy at a train station is about to leave his family to attend college. At the time the artist painted it, he and his wife Mary were feeling the loneliness common to empty nesters. Photo courtesy of Bob Read. Click here.
S.T. Haggerty has spent many afternoons interviewing and chatting with Norman’s son Jarvis about his father’s work as an illustrator and the challenges it presented to the family. Jarvis’ work is also on display at the Norman Rockwell Museum. Photo by Nova Rockwell. Jarvis appeared in Marbles Champion. Click here.
S.T. Haggerty enjoyed the privilege of speaking with Vermont models at the library in Manchester, Vermont.
Norman had a soft spot in his heart for the American worker and thus he created Tired Salesgirl on Christmas Eve with model Sophie Rachiski Aumand, who fondly recalls her modeling experience. Click here.
Norman often sought redheads to model for him because the dramatic color grabs people’s attention. Norman discovered Tom Paquin in a group of Bennington, Vermont Boy Scouts and used him as a model for Trumpet Practice. Tom blows up his cheeks as he did for Norman as an agitated boy who does not want to play his instrument in TRUMPET PRACTICE. Click here.
Author S.T. Haggerty found it enlightening to work on his book, Call Me Norman in Norman’s former studio in front of the huge window where sunlight streamed in to illuminate models’ faces.