We present a multiphase-field model to describe quantitatively nanowire growth by the vapor-liquid-solid (VLS) process. The free-energy functional of this model depends on three nonconserved order parameters that distinguish the vapor, liquid, and solid phases and describe the energetic properties of various interfaces, including arbitrary forms of anisotropic γ plots for the solid-vapor and solid-liquid interfaces. The evolution equations for those order parameters describe basic kinetic processes including the rapid (quasi-instantaneous) equilibration of the liquid catalyst to a droplet shape with constant mean curvature, the slow incorporation of growth atoms at the droplet surface, and crystallization within the droplet. The standard constraint that the sum of the phase fields equals unity and the conservation of the number of catalyst atoms, which relates the catalyst volume to the concentration of growth atoms inside the droplet, are handled via separate Lagrange multipliers. An analysis of the model is presented that rigorously maps the phase-field equations to a desired set of sharp-interface equations for the evolution of the phase boundaries under the constraint of force balance at three-phase junctions (triple points) given by the Young-Herring relation that includes torque term related to the anisotropy of the solid-liquid and solid-vapor interface excess free energies. Numerical examples of growth in two dimensions are presented for the simplest case of vanishing crystalline anisotropy and the more realistic case of a solid-liquid γ plot with cusped minima corresponding to two sets of (10) and (11) facets. The simulations reproduce many of the salient features of nanowire growth observed experimentally, including growth normal to the substrate with tapering of the side walls, transitions between different growth orientations, and crawling growth along the substrate. They also reproduce different observed relationships between the nanowire growth velocity and radius depending on the growth condition. For the basic normal growth mode, the steady-state solid-liquid interface tip shape consists of a main facet intersected by two truncated side facets ending at triple points. The ratio of truncated and main facet lengths are in quantitative agreement with the prediction of sharp-interface theory that is developed here for faceted nanowire growth in two dimensions.