Norman Rockwell’s American Freedom Exhibit at the MFAH

Norman Rockwell: American Freedom is the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Norman Rockwell’s iconic depictions of the Four Freedoms outlined by FDR in his 1941 State of the Union Address: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. He identified these essential human rights that should be universally protected and this theme was eventually incorporated into the Atlantic Charter and the United Nations Charter.

Freedom of Worship presents a visionary world without discrimination based on religion. Rockwell considered this to be one of his strongest paintings in this series with hand gestures and rosary beads.

Image result for Freedom of Worship norman rockwell

Freedom of Speech is based upon a specific event when Rockwell attended a town meeting where his neighbor, Jim Edgerton stood up to speak against a school proposal.

Freedom of Speech Oil Painting - Norman Rockwell

Freedom from Want was inspired by the all-American Thanksgiving with Rockwell’s neighbors and family members.with Mrs. Thadeus Wheaton, the family cook holding the turkey. Rockwell’s wife Mary (second from the bottom left) and his mother Nancy (second from the bottom right)

Large Norman Rockwell Print Freedom from Want image 0

Freedom From Fear was painted while Europe was under siege. In this peaceful bedroom scene, the only indication of unrest is the newspaper headline held my the father about bombings. Rockwell had three sons and wanted to convey that all parents should be able to put their children to bed without worry and should be assured of their child’s safety.

Norman Rockwell Freedom from Fear print of the painting image 0

The paintings were reproduced in The Saturday Evening Post for over four consecutive weeks in 1943, with essays by prominent thinkers of the day. They became the highlight of a touring exhibition sponsored by The Post and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. These pictures were also used to raise over $132 million in war bonds.



I recently saw this comprehensive exhibition devoted to Norman Rockwell’s iconic depictions of the Four Freedoms outlined by Franklin Delano Roosevelt: Freedom of SpeechFreedom of WorshipFreedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want at the Museum of Fine Art in Houston (MFAH). The exhibit runs until March 20, 2020. Here’s his speech:

“In the future days, which we seek to make secure, we look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms.
The first is freedom of speech and expression—everywhere in the world.
The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way—everywhere in the world.
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.
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.
That is no vision of a distant millennium. It is a definite basis for a kind of world attainable in our own time and generation. That kind of world is the very antithesis of the so-called new order of tyranny which the dictators seek to create with the crash of a bomb.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

“The presentation explores how Rockwell’s 1943 paintings came to be embraced by millions of Americans. These works of art provided crucial aid to the war effort and took their place among the most indelible images in the history of American art. Organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum, the exhibition features a range of works in addition to Rockwell’s celebrated images of the Four Freedoms. Norman Rockwell: American Freedom showcases paintings, illustrations, prints, and more by Rockwell (1894–1978) and many of his contemporaries, including Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, J.C. Leyendecker, Arthur Rothstein, Mead Schaeffer, Ben Shahn, and Arthur Szyk. Historical documents, videos, photographs, and artifacts throughout the installation bring the era to life.”MFAH

Here are excerpts from FDR’s

Four Freedoms Speech in the National Archives

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“We look forward to a world founded upon four essential human freedoms. The first is freedom of speech and expression–everywhere in the world. The second is freedom of every person to worship God in his own way– everywhere in the world. The third is freedom from want . . . everywhere in the world. The fourth is freedom from fear . . . anywhere in the world.”
–President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, January 6, 1941

On January 6, 1941, FDR addressed Congress, delivering the historic “Four Freedoms” speech. At a time when Western Europe was 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 inspired illustrator Norman Rockwell and 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.

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Norman Rockwell’s later paintings from the 1960s and ’70s advocated for freedom of speech and the Civil Rights Movement. His compositions often hinted at shifting gender roles, class divides, democratic values, and acceptance of all races and religions.This “Golden Rule” painting is one of my favorites.

Norman Rockwell, Golden Rule, 1961. Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, April 1, 1961. © SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN. Courtesy of the Norman Rockwell Museum and the New York Historical Society Museum & Library.

The Problem We All Live With is a 1964 painting. It is considered an iconic image of the Civil Rights Movement and it depicts Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African American girl, on her way to William Frantz Elementary School, an all-white public school, on November 14, 1960, during the New Orleans school desegregation crisis.


To learn more about my globe-trotting travels, visit

President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Message to Congress, For Freedoms Speech was delivered on January 6, 1941

FDR’s “Day of Infamy” Speech delivered on December 8, 1941, after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Japan bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Roosevelt declared war in this speech.

Pop up historic facts about Pearl Harbor:




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