How a Classified Ad Brought Rockwell Two Black Eyes

The Shiner by Norman Rockwell
Shiner, by Norman Rockwell, appeared on the May 23, 1953, cover of the Post. © SEPS

Portraying a boy with a black eye was commonplace enough. Here, Rockwell gives the schoolyard dust-up a then-modern twist by painting a girl combatant who, judging by her grin, was the victor. But as he worked on the cover illustration, Rockwell found himself in a jam because his model was not, in fact, injured. And painting a realistic shiner was challenging, since a truly “black” eye contains multiple colors, none of them black.

Rockwell halted work to visit several hospitals but found no patients in the right condition. An obliging photographer ran an ad in the local paper, announcing a search for a model with a black eye. This created another diversion as the media caught wind of the story, and soon Rockwell was getting offers from across the country. But then, a bit of luck came Rockwell’s way when Tommy Forsberg of Worcester, Massachusetts, fell down the stairs and blackened both his eyes. His father drove him to Rockwell’s studio, where his injury would be immortalized, albeit on a young girl’s face.