The Rockwell Files: Love at First Fight

Rockwell’s Day in the Life of a Girl took some creative behind-the-scenes imagination to form its many scenes.

Scenes of a young girl having a date with a classmate

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Three months after Rockwell’s Day in the Life of a Boy appeared on the cover of the Post, he decided to document a day in a little girl’s life, too. He chose his favorite child model, Mary Whalen, to pose for the 22 images of Day in the Life of a Girl for the August 30, 1952, cover.

Rockwell had to be imaginative in posing Mary for the photographs he would use to inform the painting. To give the impression of her racing off to the pool, her mother helped by holding her pigtails back while someone else pulled on her swim cap. To simulate the mutual dunkings of Mary and co-model Chuck Marsh, Rockwell used a bronze bust. The kids posed as if to dunk the bust’s head under water so Rockwell could get their elbow angles correct.

Making Mary’s hair look soaking wet was easier: “They poured a bowl of water on me,” she said.

Now came the toughest challenge. Though the models got along when posing, Chuck absolutely refused to kiss a girl — no way, no how. He finally agreed to a compromise: Rockwell brought out the bronze bust again and photographed Chuck kissing it.

The finished cover resembled Day in the Life of a Boy except for one image. Rockwell had been criticized for not showing the boy saying his prayers before going to bed. So he removed one of the images in the sequence — Mary and Chuck thanking the birthday girl for inviting them to her party — to make room for Mary kneeling at her bedside.

Scenes of a young girl having a date with a classmate
(Norman Rockwell, © SEPS)

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