The Passing of a Muse

It’s a sad, sad day. Sad for many, but uniquely sad for those of us who work as models at the New York Studio School. Royalyne Ward-Davis, our dear model coordinator, passed away last night after a hard-fought battle with cancer. I don’t even know how to approach, let alone begin, this post in her memory. I’m probably writing it too soon, since I only found out the tragic news a few hours ago. Even though we all knew this was imminent, after watching her waste away for months, it doesn’t alleviate the grief. I last saw her, spoke to her, and hung out with her on an unseasonably balmy night on 8th street in Greenwich Village a few weeks ago, at the opening reception for her art exhibit at the school.

Royalyne was as wedded to the New York Studio School as a person could be. She started there as a student many years ago, then a model, then the model coordinator. In other words, she painted there, posed there, and administrated there, her heart and soul inextricable from the school itself. She carried out her model coordinator duties, doing bookings and organizing models’ schedules, up to the last day she was capable of doing it. It was only several weeks ago that I answered my cell phone to hear Royalyne’s distinct raspy voice and north Florida accent at the other end, calling to inquire about my availability. We discussed it, then discussed chemo, then discussed the school, and then a little bit of life itself.

She was blunt, she was honest, she was genuine, she was funny as hell, she loved art with every fiber of her being, and she understood art models and their “issues” like no one else. One time last year, Royalyne and I had a verbal argument about bookings. She was being stubborn, I was being stubborn, and in disgust I slammed my planner book closed very hard in front of her face, like a giant bitch. (really wish I could take that back). When I saw her the next day, it was like the whole altercation never happened! Royalyne made a very funny joke (which I won’t share because it’s between her and I), laughed, and beamed her contagious smile (which never changed in spite of hollowed cheeks and an ashen complexion). It made me smile and laugh back. We roared in her office over our respective temperaments, the oddities of the school, and the art modeling profession in general. And we bonded in that indescribable way that models bonded with her. i can’t really explain it accurately, I’m sorry. It was just Royalyne. She was an individualist. She was memorable. She was a singular person in every way. Her personality was unlike any other.

Royalyne posed for artist Joe Santore, her longtime good friend. I have posed for Joe as well and I am profoundly honored, and humbled, to follow in Royalyne’s footsteps. I didn’t ask Joe for permission to post this image, but I highly doubt he will mind, since it is in tribute to Royalyne. And we are all very, very sad that she is no longer with us. Just trying to cope.

Royalyne, by Joe Santore, 1995:


But Royalyne has gone home. Safe trip, friend. Safe journey. Your pain is gone. Rest in peace . . .
Crying. Missing you. I’m booked at the Studio School on Wednesday. Will be there at 9 AM sharp 🙂

20 thoughts on “The Passing of a Muse

  1. Fred says:

    Though I didn’t know Royalyne, that’s a beautiful tribute to her, and Joe Santore’s painting is a stunner.


  2. lkwinter says:

    Reading about how the altercation felt as though it never happened touched me, Claudia, makes us realize so much.

    My sincerest condolences

  3. Colin Prendergast says:

    Touchingly posed, Claudia.

    Royalyne must feel, highly fond.

  4. artmodel says:


    Thank you so much. I agree with you about Joe’s painting. It is stunning, and it captures Royalyne to perfection.


  5. artmodel says:


    I really appreciate your sensitive comments, friend. I’m glad that story touched you. And my memories of Royalyne carry many more like that one.

    Thanks again for your thoughts and sympathies.


  6. artmodel says:


    Good to see you here on Museworthy! Thanks for contributing a comment on this special blog post in Royalyne’s memory.


  7. My condolences on Royalyne as well. If we could change the past and our actions it would be a wonderful world but we can’t. But there’s a lesson in the way she handled the situation that we can all learn from. I beautiful painting and a very poignant post. My heart goes out to her family and those who loved her.

  8. dougfromcanada says:

    Royalyne sounds like she was perfect for the job and Claudia your affection for her is evident in your thoughtful words and choice of portrait. One of the coordinators I know, Bev, like Royalyne, also looks after a school and I too appreciate her efforts and abilties. Your tribute Claudia is a good reminder to always thank them for their good work in what is often a difficult job. Most of them are wonderfully patient and kind and supportive of us as models and for me personally have often been instrumental in keeping me focused on the contribution we make to the process of art thus enabling me to enjoy “centre stage”. Thanks Claudia.

  9. artmodel says:

    Ron, that is a GREAT article. Thanks so much for the link!


  10. artmodel says:


    Thanks so much for your warm and thoughtful comments and your condolences on Royalyne’s passing. I’m glad you liked the post, although I still don’t feel like I did her justice. Joe Santore did a much better job with his brush than I ever could with my words.


  11. artmodel says:


    As usual, you offer insightful comments from an art model’s perspective. I’m so glad you raised the point about art model coordinators and the often difficult job they have. Functioning as a broker between demanding art instructors and sometimes flaky and/or “diva-like” art models isn’t an easy job! Model coordinators have to deal with so many personalities and attitudes AND handle the logistics of scheduling AND deal with school superiors. They have my empathy, and yes we should absolutely thank them for their hard work.

    It’s interesting because the argument I had with Royalyne which I described in the post, was about her trying to get me to TAKE a booking that I didn’t want (models are usually in the opposite situation). The instructor for that class was pressuring Royalyne to book me for her painting class, and I was turning it down because I didn’t want to work for that particular instructor for the four consecutive weeks we she was asking for. So poor Royalyne was stuck in the middle of this mess.

    Like you said, model coordinators have a difficult job in many ways. They are the unsung heroes of the art school world, without a doubt. And Royalyne was great at her job. She took it very seriously. I am so proud to have worked for her, but I am most proud that she and I forged a genuine bond of affection and mutual respect over the last two years. I will cherish that more than anything. And I will never forget her smile . . . ever.

    Thanks so much for your comments, Doug. I enjoyed reading them.


  12. Doyle and Irene says:

    She will always be the girl in the class play, the fellow cheerleader, the beautiful and talented member of the DeSoto County High School Class of 1962. Forever young in our hearts and minds, fondly thought of, sadly remembered.

  13. Donna Davis Thomas says:

    Claudia….I thank you for your beautiful description of my big sister. Your description is so perfect and truly a stronger willed woman I have never known. I was the little sister that thought she was “it all”….she was the majorette, the cheerleader and the honor student here in our small town of the south… who wanted and willed her life to be so much more. For me it is enough….for Royalyne nothing was ever enough…always seeking, reaching and attaining her goal regardless of what may come her way….strong to the end although a mere shadow of herself. For two weeks our older sister and I were with her at the hospital following her surgery in May and then I had to return… that time I feared never being able to see her again but, she refused to accept defeat and insisted on returning home even with her doctors recommending otherwise. We had a beautiful week together with our Dad and then had to once again say goodbye….her last words were to see me in December….a week we had reserved for sisters only….thank you for loving her and appreciating her in the absence of her immediate family….perhaps I will get to meet you and other family of friends at her memorial in December. Donna

  14. artmodel says:

    Doyle and Irene,

    Tremendous thanks for sharing your fond, heartfelt remembrance of Royalyne. You describe, with so much affection, the vivacious, achieving young lady from DeSoto County High School! You are so fortunate to have known her back then. I wish I did.

    Again, I appreciate you posting your memories and sentiments. You added a great deal to this tribute post. Thank you!

    Claudia 🙂

  15. artmodel says:


    Seeing and reading your comment moved me to tears! I can’t fully express how much it affected me. Although I did my best to describe Roylayne as I knew her to my readers, the overflowing love, endearment, and admiration expressed by you, her little sister, speaks immeasurable volumes about the incredible person that was Royalyne. I read your comments several times, and I was touched more powerfully with each reading. Crying through each word!

    Your statement that she “wanted and willed her life to be so much more”, was so poignant and touching, Donna. Although I could certainly recognize that quality in Royalyne in the mere two years I knew her, hearing it from you, – confirming that that quality defined her life from childhood – clarifies for me the passionate, vigorous, determined quality that marked her personality in everything she did, her very spirit and soul. What an amazing big sister to have had! I see why you looked up to her and how inspiring she was. And how right you are that she refused to accept defeat. Royalyne lived her life on her own terms, right to the end.

    For the record, I’d like to say that as far as Royalyne’s decision to make what would be her “final trip”, I was, and still am, totally, totally in agreement with her. She made the right decision without a doubt. You said you had a beautiful week together, and that made it all worth it. She knew it deep down, as you obviously know. No doctor’s orders would stop that lady from going to visit the family she loved so much. And because of her loyalty to her own instincts, she got to spend her last days with the most important people in her life.

    Donna, you will absolutely see me at the memorial in December. Joe Santore emailed me about it, and I wrote it down in book right away. It will be a very special event to say the least, and I really look forward to meeting you and all the rest of Royalyne’s family members and friends.

    Thank you so much for posting your thoughts and memories on my blog. Glad you found it! And of course, you have my deepest condolences on your sister’s passing. She was lucky to have such warm, strong family bonds. And she meant a great deal to her circle of friends here in the New York art community.

    Best to you, and see you soon!


  16. Hello Royalyne friends. I was a Royalyne friend circa 1967. She was married to one of my best friends, my motorcycling music friend Dale Ward, from whom she took the name Ward. We were in a small college in the middle of North Carolina, and were the resident hippies of the college. We published the literary magazine, did the art, rode the motorcycles, played the music, and worshipped Royalyne. She was way too cool. She had serious art skills. She taught us to trash fluffy art. She had been to Ringling. Her paintings were the deal. I talked to Dale today about her passing. It is hard to absorb. It is like the death of a goddess. It does not seem possible.

    I sure hope all this afterlife stuff is real and I get to hang out with her again.

    Love to you all who loved her.


  17. artmodel says:


    Wow, thanks for sharing your vivid and colorful memories of Royalyne. They were great to read. Sounds like you guys had real blast back in those days! Love it.

    You added even more illustrative dimension to her, and I can’t say I’m surprised to hear that Royalyne was such a spirited, charismatic member of your group. Everyone is using the word “memorable” to describe her, and in light of your comments, the accuracy of that word is officially confirmed.

    Great to hear from you Nowell. Thanks!


  18. What a wonderful painting!, I could look at this for hours.


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