You know these images. You”ve seen them countless times, but nothing compares with seeing the originals, now on display in a special exhibit in NYC.
The Four Freedoms were evoked by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the dark days of World War II, and illustrated by Norman Rockwell, to give war-weary Americans hope and remind us why we were fighting the forces of evil.
The ideals and the images are as timely and powerful today as they were in 1943, when they were published in the Saturday Evening Post as cover illustrations for what was then a popular weekly news and lifestyle magazine.
See the Four Freedoms and more Norman Rockwell artwork, at a special exhibit opening Memorial Day Weekend, at the New York Historical Society.
75th Anniversary of Four Freedoms Publication
Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms exhibit commemorates the 75th anniversary of the publication of the images by popular illustrator Norman Rockwell, who studied art here in New York City before moving to New England.
It’s an excellent reminder of what freedom means, and why we must be ever vigilant to protect it.
NYC on the Cheap Editor Evelyn Kanter attended a preview of the exhibit, and it is a moving, impressive collection, including the stories behind the artwork.
There are dozens of Norman Rockwell paintings and posters, most of them on loan from the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., including the famous illustration of a young African-American girl who had to be protected by US Marshals to go to a newly desegregated school in New Orleans.
It was painted and published more than a decade after the Four Freedoms, and illustrates (forgive the pun) Rockwell’s continued interest in human rights and the power of images to make us think and perhaps change for the better.
You’ll learn that Rockwell deliberately did not paint the faces of the Marshals, because he wanted them to be a symbol of the law, and to keep the focus on the little girl and her simple determination to go to school.
You’ll learn that Rockwell struggled with how to portray FDR’s Four Freedoms, until he happened to attend a town hall meeting in Vermont and saw a man stand up to present an unpopular view of some local issue, which gave him the idea of showing these freedoms in a personal way we can all relate to.
There is a companion exhibit at Roosevelt House on the East Side, Reimagining The Four Freedoms, featuring the works of 39 contemporary artists, illustrating their view of what freedom means.
Like most special exhibits, this one has been in the works for five years, since before the assault on freedom of speech and worship and freedom from want and fear became front page news once again, in the USA and around the world.
New York City is the first stop for a national and international tour of Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms exhibit, which includes Denver, Detroit and Houston.
75th Anniversary of D-Day
Perhaps the most important stop for the exhibit is next year, in Caen, in Normandy, to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day. It opens there on June 6, 2019, at the Caen Memorial Museum, and there won’t be a dry eye in the house. It will be the first time these all-American paintings will leave the USA.
Caen’s mayor, Joel Bruneau, was among the dignitaries at the press preview, saying he expects surviving WWII veterans and their families will be among the visitors, and that the exhibit is yet another example of what he called the “enduring friendship” between France and the USA.
Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms is at the New York Historical Society through Labor Day Weekend, at 76th St. and Central Park West.
See it with the kids, or go with somebody whose political or religious views differ from yours, since this exhibit invites and encourages discussion.
Be sure to pick up the special family guide, with background facts on Rockwell and the Four Freedoms illustrations on display, interesting for all ages. And the vocabulary games and “what do you see in this painting” games on nearly every page are a great teaching tool.
What does freedom mean to you?
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Images courtesy Norman Rockwell Museum and Curtis Licensing