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Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Paintings That Inspired a Nation


Co-organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Norman Rockwell Museum and presented in conjunction with the dedication of the new National World War II Memorial, "Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Paintings That Inspired a Nation" celebrates the artist's most well-known paintings. Rockwell created "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom from Want," "Freedom of Worship" and "Freedom from Fear" after President Franklin D. Roosevelt's speech addressing these four fundamental freedoms of all Americans. In 1943, the power of these paintings galvanized a nation to action. Today, their timeless message continues to resonate. The exhibition is part of a Washington, D.C., city-wide tourism initiative, paying tribute to the military and domestic contributions of a generation of Americans. "Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Paintings That Inspired a Nation" is on view at the Corcoran from May 15 through September 6, 2004.

"The Norman Rockwell Museum is honored to present the iconic 'Four Freedoms' paintings at the Corcoran in the nation's capital," notes Laurie Norton Moffatt, Director of the Norman Rockwell Museum. "Rockwell's paintings are enduring national symbols; his images capture the essence of President Roosevelt's speech and illustrate, for ordinary Americans, our nation's democratic ideals."

Inspired by President Roosevelt's January 6, 1941 State of the Union address, Norman Rockwell (1894-1978) created four paintings: "Freedom of Speech," "Freedom from Want," "Freedom of Worship" and "Freedom from Fear." "Rockwell struggled with how to illustrate these abstract concepts but, in 1943, after numerous drafts and studies, he represented the four freedoms in a way every American could identify with and understand," notes Sarah Cash, Bechhoefer Curator of American Art at the Corcoran and exhibition curator.

In "Freedom of Speech," Rockwell depicts an ordinary man, standing amongst neighbors at a town meeting and speaking his mind. Rockwell's neighbor, Jim Edgerton, served as inspiration for the figure. "Freedom from Want" shows members of a large family celebrating a Thanksgiving meal. The Rockwell family cook, Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton, places the holiday turkey on the table that extends below the edge of the canvas, as if inviting the viewer to join in the feast.

In "Freedom of Worship," Rockwell departs from his established story-telling style and illustrates in close-up profile a group of praying men and women, lit by a soft, golden light. The people vary in age, race and religion and above them appears the phrase, "Each according to the dictates of his own conscience." Lastly, in "Freedom from Fear," the artist portrays a mother tucking in her two sleeping children, while the pensive father stands nearby, holding a newspaper with headlines about the bombing of foreign cities.

In a personal letter to Rockwell, President Roosevelt wrote, "I think you have done a superb job in bringing home to the plain, everyday citizen the plain, everyday truths behind the 'Four Freedoms.'"

"The Four Freedoms" appeared in the pages of "The Saturday Evening Post" magazine for four consecutive weeks, from February 20 to March 6, 1943. Rockwell's paintings went on a multi-city tour, premiering in April 1943 at the Hecht Company department store in Washington, D.C. This traveling show was designed to rally patriotic enthusiasm and inaugurate the new war-bond campaign. "The Four Freedoms" exhibition succeeded in raising almost $132 million in war-bond purchases. Rockwell said later that the "Four Freedoms" were "serious paintings which sucked the energy right out of me, leaving me dazed and thoroughly weary."

"Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Paintings That Inspired a Nation" features "The Four Freedoms" and places them in a historical context by including a variety of archival and related materials lent by the Norman Rockwell Museum and supplemented ten additional institutions and individuals.

"Newsreels, war bond posters, photographs, war bonds and stamps, as well as two oil studies for 'Freedom of Speech' are among the items on view with Rockwell's iconic paintings," adds Cash.



"America Celebrates the Greatest Generation" is a 100-day tribute to the heroism, culture and heritage of the World War II generation. At the heart of this celebration in Washington, D.C., and the Capital Region is the long-awaited dedication of the National World War II Memorial. From Memorial Day through Labor Day 2004, more than 90 WWII-themed exhibitions, performances, walking tours, restaurant experiences and hotel packages will pay tribute to the men and women who served in World War II and on the home front. Music, art, dance, film and literature will all play a part the summer-long salute. "America Celebrates the Greatest Generation" is produced by the American Experience Foundation in partnership with the Washington, DC Convention & Tourism Corporation and Cultural Tourism D.C.



The National World War II Memorial will be dedicated in Washington, D.C., on May 29, 2004 by the American Battle Monuments Commission (ABMC). The World War II Memorial is the first memorial to be built in the nation's capital that will honor the greatest generation - both here and abroad. It is currently under construction on a 7.4-acre-site surrounding the Rainbow Pool on the central axis of the National Mall between the Lincoln Memorial and the Washington Monument.

The Memorial will be formally dedicated on Saturday, May 29, during Memorial Day Weekend 2004. President Bush, Senator Bob Dole, Tom Hanks and others are expected to participate in a respectful, but colorful two-hour ceremony that it is expected to draw more than 100,000 veterans and their families.



"Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms: Paintings That Inspired a Nation" is organized by the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Norman Rockwell Museum, Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Media Sponsor for the exhibition is Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN, in conjunction with "The Saturday Evening Post."


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