“The making of a portrait is an imaginative work, because of the blending of two personalities, the sitter and the artist,” William Haskell Coffin (1878-1941) told Charleston, South Carolina, reporters upon returning to his hometown.
Coffin created 32 Post covers between 1913 and 1931, each one of an attractive woman. His portraits were sometimes stark, but as he progressed he added props for contrast and interest, such as a spray of flowers or a feathered fan. Coffin’s special touch was to depict women caught in a minimal action, such as the woman holding her hat against a sudden wind on the March 13, 1915, cover.
Coffin studied portraiture while at the Corcoran School of Art in Washington, D.C., and in Europe. He later spent a period of time under the guidance of Laurens where he would learn the art of oil painting and the nuance of color and light. Coffin returned to the New York area, where he spent the formative years of his career, winning critical acclaim painting portraits of the chorus girls from Ziegfeld’s Follies, some of whom modeled for his Post covers.
Plagued by financial failure and suffering from depression, he committed suicide in St. Petersburg, Florida in 1941.