Norman Percevel Rockwellwas a 20th-century American painter and illustrator. His works enjoy a broad popular appeal in the United States, where Rockwell is most famous for the cover illustrations of everyday life scenarios he created for The Saturday Evening Post magazine for more than four decades.
After Japan attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, America was soon bustling to marshal its forces on the home front as well as abroad. A critical component of the World War II war effort was the creation of visual images based on Franklin D. Roosevelt’s appeal to the four essential human freedoms he spoke about in his State of the Union address on January 6, 1942—freedom of speech and expression, freedom from want, freedom from fear, and freedom of worship. Yet, by the summer of 1942, two-thirds of Americans still knew nothing about the Four Freedoms, even though government agencies had disseminated photographs, prints, and even a textile design referring to them.
It is unclear whether Rockwell or a member of the Office of War Information suggested he take on the Four Freedoms. What is uncontested is that his renditions were not only vital to the war effort, but have become enshrined in American culture. Painting the Four Freedoms was important to Rockwell for more than patriotic reasons. He hoped one of them would become his statement as an artist. Rockwell’s ability to capture something universal in the commonplace is behind the success of the Four Freedoms pictures.
For Freedom of Speech, the first painting he completed, the artist attempted four different compositions in which a man dressed in work clothes, the community’s “Annual Report” folded in his pocket, stands to give his opinion at a New England town meeting.
In 1943, the four freedom canvases were published in The Saturday Evening Post before being sent on a nationwide tour called the, “Four Freedoms War Bond Show.”
More than a million people saw them in sixteen cities and over 133 million dollars in war bonds were sold. This painting—Rockwell felt it and Freedom to Worship were the best of the four—helped galvanize the nation to action during the war.
Long after that conflict, its message continues to resonate; time has revealed that the value of the Four Freedoms series lies not simply in the ideas it presented, but in Rockwell’s exceptional ability as an artist.
May 10, 2011 PowerPoint Norman Rockwell- Freedom of Speech
Have a great week. See you on May 17 for our year-end class challenge! -Mrs. S
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