Monday, February 14, 2011

HUMAN FREEDOMS



In 1942, Rockwell painted one his most overtly political and important pieces. In response to a speech given by President Franklin Roosevelt, Rockwell made a series of paintings that dealt with the Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Want, and Freedom from Fear. During the speech Roosevelt identified four essential human rights that should be universally protected and should serve as a reminder of the American motivation for fighting in World War II. The theme was incorporated into the Atlantic Charter, and it became part of the charter of the United Nations. Roosevelt's message was as follows: " In the future days which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms." This series is a cornerstone of a retrospective of the career of Rockwell, who was the most widely known contemporary commercial artist of the mid 20th century, but who failed to achieve critical acclaim commensurate with his popularity. These are perhaps Rockwell's most well-known works of art.
(michaelarnoldart.com)


The Four Freedoms at Norman Rockwell Museum
From nrm.org


American President Roosevelt was a gifted communicator. On January 6, 1941, he addressed Congress, delivering the historic "Four Freedoms" speech. At a time when Western Europe lay under Nazi domination, Roosevelt presented a vision in which the American ideals of individual liberties were extended throughout the world. Alerting Congress and the nation to the necessity of war, Roosevelt articulated the ideological aims of the conflict. Eloquently, he appealed to Americans` most profound beliefs about freedom.
The speech so inspired illustrator Norman Rockwell that he created a series of paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme. In the series, he translated abstract concepts of freedom into four scenes of everyday American life. Although the Government initially rejected Rockwell`s offer to create paintings on the "Four Freedoms" theme, the images were publicly circulated when The Saturday Evening Post, one of the nation`s most popular magazines, commissioned and reproduced the paintings. After winning public approval, the paintings served as the centerpiece of a massive U.S. war bond drive and were put into service to help explain the war's aims.
(archives.gov)
Rockwell needed no further encouragement. Already a phenomenally successful illustrator with more than 200 Saturday Evening Post covers to his credit, Rockwell was eager to contribute inspirational images to help drive the war effort. He struggled with the challenge of devoting his talent to something "bigger than a war poster, to make some statement about why the country was fighting the war."
Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech had struck a chord with Rockwell, but the lofty language contrasted sharply with Rockwell’s folksy images of small-town America. "I juggled the Four Freedoms around in my mind, reading a sentence here, a sentence there, trying to find a picture," he later recalled. "But it was so high-blown. Somehow I just couldn’t get my mind around it." So, while the Office of War Information (OWI) in Washington began churning out dozens of war posters, Rockwell sat pondering how he might bring such lofty words down to earth.
Jim Edgerton’s objection to the Arlington, Vermont, school proposal provided the answer. Here was Roosevelt’s vision in action. No one at that town meeting agreed with Edgerton, but all of them honored his right to state his case, and all of them listened respectfully. Here was the first freedom, the freedom of speech, expressed in a simple, familiar American scene—the sort Rockwell excelled at depicting.
Once he visualized the first scene, the other three quickly formed in his mind. An image of people of a variety of religious beliefs cheerfully conversing in a barbershop represented the freedom to worship. A family gathered around a table for a Thanksgiving meal embodied the ideal of freedom from want. Parents bundling their children safely in a warm bed conveyed freedom from fear.
(NORMAN ROCKWELL AND THE FOUR FREEDOMS by Bruce Heydt at americainwwii.com)
Rockwell took his idea, along with preliminary sketches, to Washington, D. C. believing that they could help in the war effort, perhaps to " ... stimulate factory production .. (and to) ... rally and inform people ..." For two days he made the rounds of government offices. Everywhere, he got the same answer: "No, thanks!" One official even said: " ... we'll use REAL artists!"
Rejected in the nation's capital, Rockwell took his idea to the "Saturday Evening Post" editor. He saw more in it than the Washington bureaucrats had and told Norman to "drop everything and finish them!" It took him six months to complete the job, and he shipped them off to the "Post" in Philadelphia. (Each was a framed canvas, 44 inches by 48 inches.)
They published the "Four Freedoms" in February, 1943: one painting in four successive issues. They were not covers but instead appeared inside in full-color, full-page presentations. Each was accompanied by an essay from a well-known American writer. Almost immediately, 25,000 readers wrote to order sets of full-color reproductions. There was a "massive outpouring of patriotism." Rockwell received 70,000 letters from people reacting to his work. And the government suddenly became interested!
The Office of War Information (O.W.I.) published 2 1/2 million posters of Rockwell's paintings. They also decided that the "Four Freedoms" could promote the sale of War Bonds.
A "Four Freedoms Show" opened in Washington, D.C. with an accompanying exhibit featuring the four originals. Each bond purchaser received a set of full-color copies. Norman Rockwell was there to sign them.
The Treasury Department took the originals on a 16-week tour of 16 major U. S. cities including New York, Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. Rockwell's paintings were seen by nearly 1 1/4 million people who bought over $133 million worth of War Bonds. All told, they distributed 4 million copies of the "Four Freedoms" paintings.
Many observers consider these pictures to be the triumph of Rockwell's career. They are also " ... enduring national symbols ...", "great human documents in ... paint and canvas ...", and " ... among the most widely produced and most famous paintings of all time!"
(NORMAN ROCKWELL: "THE PEOPLE'S ARTIST" by Stan Griffin at workersforjesus.com)


Freedom of Speech
Oil on canvas
The Saturday Evening Post
February 20, 1943 (story illustration)
The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge (Massachusetts)
Copyright 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved
From artchive.com


The good people of Arlington, Vermont, did not have the war on their minds when they gathered for a town meeting one evening during the dog days of the summer of 1942. On the contrary, in contrast to the typically grim reports coming from the Pacific and European theaters early in the year, it was good news that drew Arlington townsfolk to their meeting: town councilors had announced plans to build a new school. Only one resident, Jim Edgerton, objected to the proposed building, and in the course of the evening’s proceedings, he rose to speak.
In all, it was an unremarkable evening that soon would have been forgotten were it not for the presence of a newcomer to the town—the famous illustrator Norman Rockwell. For months, Rockwell had been preoccupied by the memorable words of a speaker with a much larger audience than Jim Edgerton’s. He couldn’t stop thinking about the State of the Union address President Franklin D. Roosevelt had delivered on January 6, 1941. For Rockwell, the little town meeting connected with FDR’s words in a way that was downright inspiring.
(NORMAN ROCKWELL AND THE FOUR FREEDOMS by Bruce Heydt at americainwwii.com)
Rockwell’s ability to capture something universal in the commonplace is behind the success of the Four Freedoms pictures. For Freedom of Speech, above, 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 this, the final version, Rockwell depicts him from slightly below eye level, encircled by his fellow townspeople and by us, the viewers, who take our place two benches in front of him. The timeless properties of this work are the result of Rockwell’s classical sense of composition: the speaker stands at the apex of a pyramid drawn by the upward glances of his neighbors. The warm, light tones of the speaker’s skin glow against the matte black chalkboard in the background, giving him a larger-than-life, heroic appearance. The work also exudes a sense of immediacy. A snapshot effect is achieved by the inclusion of fragmented forms at the painting’s borders: the partial head of the man in the lower left and the glimpse of two faces in the right and left back corners (the one on the left is Rockwell’s own). Rockwell’s eye for detail (he used ordinary people as models and had scores of photographs made before beginning to paint in order to remind him of things as small as a folded collar) gives each inch of the painting a sense of the accidental and familiar.
(picturingamerica.neh.gov)
"Freedom of Speech," was a cover for the Saturday Evening Post on February 21, 1943. There is one female in the picture (although it's hard to determine if it is a woman or a girl) and the rest of the people are men. The men who are fully visible are dressed in suits and ties while the man speaking is dressed in a work shirt and jacket. There is a look of fear, pride, and confidence on his face.
This picture can be interpreted as a working class man who is speaking out against the injustices of his town. The men in the suits have inquisitive looks on their faces and show some sort of interest and respect for the man speaking. The man speaking looks to be out of place in the meeting. To take the time of the picture into context, there were many men working blue collar jobs in the 1940s. The 1940s was WWII so many men were shipped overseas for the war but there were some who remained and in the decade that followed the Great Depression, people were coming out of their struggle even amidst an economic boom.
Also, the man must be well-liked and well-known with the other people in the meeting. They look rather accepting of him even though he is under dressed. He could very well be the neighborhood handy man, or a local store owner or producer. There is some positive connection between the man and those seated around him. If there wasn't then he may be as open to speaking out.
(Douglas Curry at teachingdigitalhistory.ning.com)


Freedom to Worship
Oil on canvas
The Saturday Evening Post
February 27, 1943 (story illustration)
The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge (Massachusetts)
Copyright 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved
From artchive.com


In Freedom of Worship, above, Rockwell portrays people looking to the left of the painting, engaged in deep prayer. The title, Freedom of Worship, implies that these people are exercising their right to worship and the religion of their choice. The portrait shows an idealized group of diverse people all engaged in prayer. In the foreground, there is a middle-aged black man in prayer. Next, there is a very old white lady, who is deeply engaged in prayer. To the left of the old woman, is a young white woman, who is clutching rosary beads, implying that this woman is Catholic. In between the young woman and the old woman is an old white man, who is also engaged in prayer. Behind all of these people are a few middle-aged white men, who are also praying and looking towards the left. At the top of the poster, it states: “Each according to the dictates of his own conscience.” This quote reiterates the title of the poster (Freedom of Worship), and states that each man or woman has the right to worship, in any manner he or she sees fit. Roosevelt mentioned freedom of worship in his speech because certain countries, both friendly and enemy, such as Russia and Germany, did not allow freedom of worship. Germany persecuted many religious minorities, most notably people of the Jewish faith, while communist Russia effectively banned religion of any kind. These countries, in addition to many others, stood in stark contrast to the beliefs of the United States, whose Constitution specifically allows for the freedom of worship. Roosevelt argued that the U.S. was fighting World War II in order to give citizens of other countries the same rights and privileges that U.S. citizens enjoy.
Several aspects of Rockwell’s Freedom of Worship lie at odds with the intended message of the painting. First, the people presented in the group all appear to be rather similar despite the differences in age and race. It would have been easy to illustrate more religious diversity in the U.S. Second, although there is a black man included in the picture, he is featured at the foreground of the painting, and is somewhat isolated from the group of white people. It appears that the black man’s head is the only head not pointing distinctly towards the left side of the painting. Perhaps the black man is sitting at a different pew; this may reflect upon segregation, which was still the norm in 1943.....Rockwell’s illustration seems to show a united America, which America may have been during World War II; however, it is likely that religious differences and segregation, even during World War II, helped to keep people apart.
(Dustin Adams at teachingdigitalhistory.ning.com)


Freedom from Want
Oil on canvas
The Saturday Evening Post
March 6, 1943 (story illustration)
The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge (Massachusetts)
Copyright 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved
From artchive.com


Freedom from Want, above, represents a happy family sitting down to what looks like a hearty meal with its main course being a big turkey. A grandmother-like figure is serving the turkey to a full table of smiling faces. It is obvious that Rockwell was trying to depict a family who did not have to worry about “wanting” anything more than what they had because they had plenty. This is an image of a family who did not have to worry about having food on the table that night or shelter over their heads. Roosevelt’s famous speech was in early 1941; this image was not published until early 1943. In the interim, the United States had entered World War II. Thus, this image was even more poignant to those who saw it at the time of its publication; it was what they were fighting for.
This image could be interpreted in many different ways than Rockwell had intended. Given the fact that Americans who were viewing this image had just been through the Great Depression, this image is extremely idealistic and, therefore, not realistic. Very few families in the early 1940s would actually be sitting down to a similar meal and setting. Having that many men at the table was not realistic either; at that time, most men were at war while women gradually left the home to enter the workforce. Then we come to the subtext of race. All of the characters in the painting are white; this could suggest that the United States was actually only fighting for the freedom from want for whites. It is hard to argue with that interpretation given racial segregation in the United States and the events of the years following the war. After the war, whites did seem to have achieved freedom from want, while blacks had to fight yet another battle to achieve their own freedoms. Another oppositional interpretation of the image could be that of it showing a family with an excessive amount of food; this could be seen as a metaphor for the United States at the dinner table with too much food while other countries are left with too little.
(Sarah Kate Bartelteachingdigitalhistory.ning.com)


Freedom from Fear
Oil on canvas
The Saturday Evening Post
March 13, 1943 (story illustration)
The Norman Rockwell Museum of Stockbridge (Massachusetts)
Copyright 310 Publishing, LLC. All rights reserved
From artchive.com


Freedom from Fear, above, was published in the March 13, 1943 Issue of The Saturday Evening Post with a matching essay as part of the Four Freedoms series.
This painting is the only one of the Four Freedoms that was not newly created. It had actually been created to depict the Battle of Britain and had gone unpublished by The Saturday Evening Post. Note the newspaper caption begins "Bombings Kill. . .Horrors Hit. . ." Rockwell had a certain distaste toward this image because he felt the idea that American children were resting safely in their beds as Europe burned was a smug theme.
(posterlovers.com)
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 position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor- anywhere in the world.”
The father in this painting looks tired yet also concerned as he holds the biggest clue in this painting by Norman Rockwell. In the newspaper headline we can see the words ‘Bombings’ and ‘Horror’. The father also holds his glasses to indicate he was just reading the paper. The figure of the father is slightly slouched to gaze upon his beloved children, also perhaps from working a long day. From the white shirt, tie, suspenders and dress shoes, we can tell he is a professional, working man of some kind.
In the background there is an important compositional triangle of light in the upper left corner. If you block this triangle out with your hand, you will see how key this ray of light and partial picture frame becomes for creating compositional tension. Also in the background we see an orange rectangle of light in the hallway, with a stairway and floral wallpaper.
(suite101.com)
The Four Freedoms series, now in the Norman Rockwell Museum, was made for reproduction in The Saturday Evening Post over the course of four consecutive weeks. Later they were the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by the Saturday Evening Post and the United States Department of the Treasury. The touring exhibition and accompanying sales drives raised over US$132 million in the sale of war bonds.
These series is a cornerstone of a retrospective of the career of Rockwell, who was the most widely known contemporary commercial artist of the mid 20th century, but who failed to achieve critical acclaim commensurate with his popularity. These are perhaps Rockwell's most well-known works of art, and they were the most widely distributed paintings ever produced by some accounts. At one time they were commonly displayed in post offices, schools, clubs, railroad stations, and a variety of public and semi-public buildings. Critical review of these images, like most of Rockwell's work, has not been entirely positive. Rockwell's idyllic and nostalgic approach to regionalism made him a popular illustrator but a lightly regarded fine artist during his lifetime. These paintings generally are viewed with this sentiment.
(en.wikipedia.org)


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