Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms

The New York Historical Society will be hosting the exhibit Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms from May 25, 2018 - September 02, 2018.  This is the first internationally touring exhibition devoted to Rockwell’s iconic depictions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms launches at the New-York Historical Society. The traveling exhibition, which was organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts, explores how Rockwell’s 1943 paintings—Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want—gave visual voice to Roosevelt’s call to the defense of freedom worldwide and took their place among the most enduring images in the history of American art.

The United States declared war on Japan 11 months after Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech in his annual address, but the nation did not rally behind the war.

The Ordnance Department of the United States Army commissioned Mr. Rockwell to do a painting. That became “Let’s Give Him Enough and On Time,” of a machine-gunner in need of ammunition. But Mr. Rockwell wanted to do more for the war effort and decided to illustrate Roosevelt’s four freedoms.

“The story goes that he attends a town meeting in his hometown of Arlington, Vt.,” Ms. Hofer said, “and a local man stands up to voice an unpopular opinion but everyone listens respectfully. All of a sudden Rockwell realizes this is freedom of speech in action, that he can depict the ideals in terms the American public can really grasp.”

Mr. Rockwell brought his sketches to Washington, but the Ordnance Department did not have the resources for them. On his trip home he stopped in the offices of The Saturday Evening Post, in Philadelphia, and the editor Ben Hibbs snapped them up. He ran them in four sequential issues in February and March 1943; the government later turned the images into posters, raising $132 million for the war effort.

In addition to Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, the exhibition encompasses numerous other examples of painting, illustration, and more, by both Rockwell and a broad range of his contemporaries, as well as historical documents, photographs, videos, and artifacts; interactive digital displays; and immersive settings, some using virtual-reality technology, all on the theme of the Four Freedoms, from FDR’s initial enunciation of them as a reason to enter the War to their powerful post-war legacy. Following New-York Historical, the exhibition travels to The Henry Ford, Dearborn, MI; The George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum, Washington, D.C.; Mémorial de Caen, Normandy, France; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, TX ; and the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, MA.

American Fine Art