As the story goes, in 1942, Norman Rockwell shot out of bed at 2 a.m. one night with an idea. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s 1941 speech about the preservation of democratic values (in the face of war with Germany’s totalitarian regime) had stuck with him, and he wanted to help promote what had become known as Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms”: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear.
The first of a series of the four paintings published in the Saturday Evening Post, accompanied by a short essay from writer Newton Booth Tarkington. Inspired by the line in Franklin Roosevelt's speech, "The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world." An early draft of the painting had the subject surrounded by others sitting squarely around him. Rockwell objected, he felt the upward view from the bench level was more dramatic.
According to Franklin Roosevelt's speech, "The second [freedom] is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world." This painting was the second in the series of Norman Rockwell's paintings based on Roosevelt's speech. It was published in the Saturday Evening Post with a short essay from writer Will Durant. Rockwell considered this painting to be the most successful of the series.
Also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I'll Be Home for Christmas, this painting was the third of the series and was published in the Saturday Evening Post with a corresponding essay from writer Carlos Bulosan. "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." -Franklin Roosevelt. This work is also regarded as an example of mastering the art of white-on-white painting.
The last of the series, published in the Saturday Evening Post alongside an essay by prominent thinker of the day, Stephen Vincent Benét. Inspired by Franklin Roosevelt's speech, "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."
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