Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms"

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

©1943 SEPS- The Curtis Publishing Co., Agent  
Printed by the Government Printing Office for the Office of War Information NARA Still Picture Branch


Norman Rockwell, circa 1921 Courtesy, Library of Congress

Norman Rockwell, circa 1921
Courtesy, Library of Congress

In 1943, inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt's address to Congress, artist Norman Rockwell created a series of paintings on the Four Freedoms. Then, a successful and popular illustrator noted for his detailed artwork depicting American culture, Rockwell was a regular contributor to the popular magazine The Saturday Evening Post. 

Rockwell originally approached the US Ordnance Department with an offer to create paintings on the Four Freedoms to help raise funds for the war effort, but his proposal was rejected. Instead, The Saturday Evening Post reproduced his four oil paintings over the course of four weeks in 1943 accompanied by essays by popular thinkers of the time: "Freedom of Speech" by Booth Tarkington, "Freedom of Worship" by Will Durant, "Freedom from Want" by Carlos Bulosan, and "Freedom from Fear" by Stephen Vincent Benet. 

The paintings were wildly successful. In a profile of Rockwell in 1945, the New Yorker noted that the Four Freedoms "were received by the public with more enthusiasm, perhaps, than any other paintings in the history of American art." 

The Saturday Evening Post donated the pieces to the country's Second War Loan Drive. Beginning in April 1943, the paintings toured America stopping at 16 different cities. Approximately 1.2 million Americans viewed the series helping to raise $132 million over the course of the country's eight war loan drives. 

The Four Freedoms remain some of Norman Rockwell's most beloved and recognized pieces of art, offering Americans a hopeful vision for the future. The Four Freedoms are part of the permanent collection of Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts.

Extemporaneous Remarks of the President on the Portico Outside his Office in Connection with the Second War Loan Drive. Courtesy, US National Archives and Records Administration

Extemporaneous Remarks of the President on the Portico Outside his Office in Connection with the Second War Loan Drive. Courtesy, US National Archives and Records Administration