Four freedoms
Anne Frank School English teacher

The origin of this famous artwork...

This is an extract from the speech delivered by President Roosevelt in 1941 in front of the Congress:

“ In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way--everywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want—which, translated into world terms, means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy peacetime life for its inhabitants—everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear—which, translated into world terms, means a world-wide reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation will be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor—anywhere in the world.

That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb. ”

— Franklin D. Roosevelt, excerpted from the State of the Union Address to the Congress, January 6, 1941

The artist...

From Wikipedia

By S. Quattri

Source :
Norman Rockwell, knowing he was too old to serve in the army decided to do something to help his country during World War II. He came up with the idea of illustrating Roosevelt's speech.

He worked on these paintings for 6 months in 1942. He lost 15 pounds and many nights sleep. When he was finished, he had created some of the greatest masterpieces of his entire career.

Unfortunately, the United States government wartime agency refused to sponsor these works, so he turned to his old friends, The Saturday Evening Post and Curtis Publishing.

The four paintings were published in The Saturday Evening Post on February 20, February 27, March 6 and March 13 in 1943. The paintings were accompanied in the magazine by matching essays on the Four Freedoms. The most famous is Freedom from Fear.

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms made history in the publishing world. Response to the publication was so strong that over 25,000 readers ordered prints from the magazine.

Then, the United States Department of the Treasury decided to tour Rockwell’s Four Freedoms paintings around the country. This was a way of raising money for the war in Europe.The Four Freedoms Tour raised over $130,000,000 in war bond sales.

Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings were also reproduced as postage stamps by the United States Post Office. Also, postage stamps of the Four Freedoms were issued in 1943 and in 1946.

Rockwell received over 60,000 letters and postcards offering thanks and encouragement. Included in this number was one letter from President Roosevelt himself.

Roosevelt wrote, "I think you have done a superb job in bringing home to the plain, everyday citizen the plain, everyday truths behind the Four Freedoms... I congratulate you not alone on the execution but also for the spirit which impelled you to make this contribution to the common cause of a freer, happier world." High praise for America's favorite illustrator!

The Four Freedoms Tour took the four original paintings to sixteen American cities. Almost a million and a quarter people were able to appreciate the paintings in person. The $130 million dollars worth of bonds sold by the Four Freedoms Tour helped shorten World War II. The mental boost to the American people helped assure a U.S./Allies victory.

Let's have a close look at the four paintings...


For inspiration for Freedom of Speech, Rockwell remembered a recent town meeting in Arlington, Vermont where he lived at that time. He remembered how his neighbour, Jim Edgerton, had stood up during the meeting and expressed an unpopular opinion. Instead of objecting to his remarks, his fellow citizens honored Edgerton's right to speak and give his opinion.

Rockwell decided that their respect for Edgerton's unpopular viewpoint perfectly illustrated Roosevelt's idea of Freedom of Speech.

Rockwell painted the characters as strongly contrasting.

The central character stands above the rest. He is dressed in cheap working clothes. He has a determined look on his face. In his pocket is a rolled up program for the meeting.

All eyes are on the speaker.

Seated around him are his neighbours. All are holding the same program. The men whose clothes we can see are all dressed in suits. We assume they are businessmen.

The face of the man on his right shows disagreement. He is smiling upside down. His program is clenched in his hand.

Yet no one interrupts the speaker.

Rockwell successfully captures the essential character of free speech with this painting.

The captions on the original war poster read as follows: "Save Freedom of Speech" above and "Buy War Bonds" underneath the illustration.


Rockwell said that this painting was the hardest to finish of all the Four Freedoms paintings. This was the last of the Four Freedoms to be finished.

His first idea for this painting was a cheerful scene in a barbershop. In it would be different races and creeds, all getting along splendidly. The characters planned and partially painted included a white Protestant barber, a Jewish customer, an Afro-American customer, a Catholic priest and a white Anglo customer.

It wasn't long before people who saw the rough painting were complaining about Rockwell painting the characters as stereotypes. The Catholic priest looked too rough. The Afro-American should have lighter skin. Or darker skin. The Jewish man didn't look like the Jewish viewers wanted him to look. Norman Rockwell started all over from the beginning.

His second and third ideas weren't much better.

The Post editors started pressuring him to finish.

Then Rockwell pulled the final idea for Freedom to Worship out of his head. This rendering of the idea was wildly successful.

The painting shows eight people, four women and four men. They are all praying. Each is praying in his or her own way. Some are praying with eyes open, some with eyes closed.

They are illuminated by a soft, golden light emanating from off the left side of the canvas.

Some have their heads bowed, one is looking upward. One holds rosary beads, one holds a holy book.

Catholic, Protestant and Jew are all represented in the painting. Black and white are both represented. Freedom of religion is all encompassing.

At the top of the painting, Norman Rockwell has written "EACH ACCORDING TO THE DICTATES OF HIS OWN CONSCIENCE." Rockwell said that he remembered reading it somewhere, but he didn't remember exactly where.


Rockwell went into a lot of detail with this picture. He actually asked The Bennington Banner (the local newspaper), in Vermont, to print up a proper newspaper with a war bombing headline. He was a real stickler for realism in his paintings.

Rockwell used his Vermont neighbours as models in this picture. The model for the father in this picture is said to appear in all four of the Four Freedoms paintings.

This painting shows a father and mother tucking their two children in at bedtime.

The children's mother carefully places their covers just right to keep them warm. She is careful not to wake them.

The father, with a concerned yet caring look on his face, holds a newspaper and his reading glasses in one hand. The headline of the newspaper the father is holding says "Bombings K... Horror Hit..." This was published during the time that London was being bombed by Nazi Germany.

No doubt, the father is relieved that his family is not living in war-torn Europe. All the fathers in America were similarly relieved. Rockwell's painting made the parents of America more aware of their relief.


Norman Rockwell's Freedom from Want appeared on the pages of The Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1943.

This was the third of Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms series.

The painting was also originally reproduced on a poster promoting the sale of war bonds during World War Two.

This painting is also known as Thanksgiving Dinner. Many people consider this the definitive Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving painting.

Freedom from Want is one of Norman Rockwell's best loved and most recognized compositions.

Rockwell fussed over this cover a long time before he completed it. He was very concerned that it would convey overabundance instead of freedom from want.

Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton, the Rockwell family cook, was actually the model for the grandmother serving the turkey. Rockwell was known for using friends and family in his paintings.

" I painted the turkey in Freedom From Want on Thanksgiving Day. Mrs. Wheaton, our cook, cooked it, I painted it and we ate it. " -Norman Rockwell

Examining this painting, we see a large family gathered around their table for a feast. We presume the occasion is Thanksgiving because of the huge turkey being served. Both the good china and the good silver are on the table.

Around the holiday table, children and grandchildren, are chatting happily, on both sides. Grandpa is at the head of the table and has his carving tools ready to slice and serve the mouth-watering bird.

Grandma is placing the turkey in its place. She is still wearing her apron, in case some succulent juices spill and ruin her dress. The turkey appears to be cooked to perfection.

The table extends past the bottom of the painting, giving the perception that the viewer is actually at the table. The gentleman in the lower right corner of the painting seems to be inviting us to join in the feast.

Norman Rockwell's painting, in addition to invoking emotions associated with family, also induces hunger. It may be time for a sandwich. What about a turkey sandwich!

A few more examples of Rockwell's paintings, about children ...


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Last updated  2016/02/27 20:16:53 CETHits  70483