Born in New York City in 1894, Norman Rockwell always wanted to be an artist. At age 14, Rockwell enrolled in art classes at The New York School of Art (formerly The Chase School of Art). Two years later, in 1910, he left high school to study art at The National Academy of Design. He soon transferred to The Art Students League, where he studied with Thomas Fogarty and George Bridgman. Fogarty’s instruction in illustration prepared Rockwell for his first commercial commissions. From Bridgman, Rockwell learned the technical skills on which he relied throughout his long career.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Freedom of Speech, 1943. Illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, February 20, 1943.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Freedom of Workship, 1943. Illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, February 27, 1943
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Freedom From Want, 1943. Illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March, 6, 1943.
Norman Rockwell (1894-1978), Freedom From Fear, 1943. Illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March, 13, 1943.
There was one of the Four Freedoms in each car... the comments I heard were just so thoughtful, so profound. Something as simple as getting up and speaking at a town meeting about an issue impacted me greatly.
George Church - Volunteer at Norman Rockwell Museum
The first of the Four Freedoms is Freedom of Speech. Norman Rockwell had multiple ideas for this first painting but decided to paint a very impactful scene from a town hall meeting. This meeting was about the burning of a local school in Arlington, Vermont and debated whether or not the city should build a new school or if the students would have to go to school in the district next to theirs and the taxes would be saved.
Rockwell remembered how during that meeting, his neighbor stood up and gave a speech about how he opposed building a new school. Although losing the vote to move the students to another district, the image of everyone in that town hall meeting listening respectfully to one person inspired Norman Rockwell to paint this scene. You can see how everyone’s ears and eyes are listening to what he has to say.
The second of the Four Freedoms is Freedom of Worship. Norman Rockwell recognized that religion was a deeply personal and delicate subject. He wanted to paint an image that coveyed unity despite differences, presenting a vision for a world without discrimination based upon religious practice or belief.
This painting we see today focuses more on the concpet of worship rather than on the concept of religion. It is composed of the profiles of 8 heads in a shallow visual space. The various figures represnt people of different faiths in a moment of prayer. Painted in Monochromatic hues, this painting provides a sense of inclusion and unity.
The third of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms was Freedom From Want. This painting was not as great of a conceptual challenge for Rockwell as were his previous two paintings. This piece was inspired by and became a model for the ‘All American Thanksgiving’. This painting includes some of the artists own neighbors and family members.
Freedom from Want was published with an essay by the relatively unknown novelist and poet Carlos Bulosan, a Filipino Immigrant and migrant worker, who wrote on behalf of those enduring domestic hardship. His essay looked forward to a possible future in which those outside the socail mainstream might be allowed to experience true freedom.
This piece is one of the most appropriated of Rockwell’s artworks. His composition has become familiar to many and has made it’s way into the public imagination.
The fourth and final painting of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms is Freedom From Fear. Freedom From Fear was painted while Europe was under siege as revealed in the headline in the newspaper held in the father’s hand. Rockwell’s intention was to convey the notion that all parents should be able to put their children to bed each night with the assurance of their safety.
Here, a mother and father appear to check on their sleeping children as beautiful touches tell the story of a comfortable middle class life. Pictures, clothing an toys are in the children’s bedroom. Though the children do share a single bed, a warm light shines from the first floor of their home implying that this family has attained some fiscal security and the American Dream.
This painting still remains relevant and has struck accord in response to notable world events.
FreedomTrain.org is a proud sponsor of the Minnesota Freedom Fund (MFF) who envisions a world where justice restores the humanity and dignity of all involved. MFF fights to exist in a world where every individual has access to resources to lead healthy and full lives.
The Norman Rockwell Museum is an art museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, dedicated to the art of Norman Rockwell. It is home to the world's largest collection of original Rockwell art.