Mary Whalen Leonard on Posing for ‘Shiner’

Girl with black eye sits outside the principal's office
Norman Rockwell
The Saturday Evening Post
May 23, 1953

Sometimes in life you have to take a beating — literally or figuratively — to stand up for the truth, yourself, a loved one, or something you truly believe in. And it’s always worth the cost of that battle, as this girl’s triumphant smile, even with that shiner, celebrates.

Mary Whalen Leonard, Norman Rockwell’s favorite female model, who posed for Girl at Mirror, Day in the Life of a Girl, and others, speaks fondly of posing for my grandfather’s illustration Shiner (above):

“My recollection of working out this picture with Norman [above] is one of laughter and fun. He showed me the sketch and wondered what I thought about it. I got it. It was about role reversal. For once the little girl was victorious, and it did not matter that she had a black eye. That was the mark of the trophy!

“These posing sessions were filled with lots of Norman’s laughter as he knelt on the floor and pounded his fists to get the smile he wanted …”

Interview with Rockwell Model Mary Whalen Leonard

Meet Rockwell model Mary Whalen Leonard. Here, Mary shares memories of what it was like to grow up in the same community as Norman Rockwell.

A special thank you to the Norman Rockwell Museum for sharing the video of Mary Whalen Leonard.

Read our three-part web exclusive with model Mary Whalen Leonard:

The Shiner by Norman Rockwell

Rockwell’s Favorite Model

Meet the small-town girl Rockwell called “the best model I ever had.” Read more »


Rockwell’s Favorite Model, Part II

Ever wonder how Norman Rockwell achieved some of the poses we see? With close-ups and insight from model Mary Whalen Leonard, we’ll show how a cover was done. Read more »

Saturday evening post cover from March 6, 1954

Rockwell’s Favorite Model, Part III

In one of his most respected paintings, Rockwell captures the poignancy of growing up. However, the model “had no idea what he was talking about.” Read more »