Norman Rockwell and the Four Freedoms

On January 6th, 1941, as President Franklin D. Roosevelt closed his State of the Union Address to Congress, he described his vision for a better way of life through what he considered the four essential human freedoms: Freedom to Worship, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want and Freedom of 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, excerpted from the Annual Message to the Congress, January 6, 1941

Almost two years later, with the United States in the throes of World War II, Norman Rockwell painted a series of paintings called the Four Freedoms in an effort to reinforce their importance, while at the same time, simplifying their complexity.  After four months, when he was finished, the United States government used them quite successfully to enhance family values, unity, and patriotism, at a time when it was most needed.

At school :

Basic information about this artwork

  • Who painted it? (Give the name and the dates of birth / death of the artist)
  • When?
  • Why? (What was at the origin of this series of paintings)
  • How long did it take Rockwell to paint them?
  • In what order did he paint them?
  • Which painting was the most difficult to make?



Freedom of Speech
  • The most important element of the painting is…
  • What are the other people doing around him?
  • Look at the man sitting on the left: does he seem to agree?
  • Compare the people’s clothes


Freedom of Worship
  • How many people are represented?
  • Who are they?
  • What are they doing?
  • Their eyes:
  • What is the main colour of this painting?
  • Is it a warm or a cold colour?


Freedom from fear
  • Who are the people on this painting?
  • Where are they?
  • What are they doing?
  • What can you see on the newspaper?


Freedom from want
  • Who are the people on this painting?
    • –The ones standing:
    • –The ones sitting:
  • What day is it?
  • What are they doing?
  • Who is the man on the right looking at?

Interpretation, analysis

1) Where is the scene?
  • What is the message of this painting?
  • What style of painting is it?
2) What does the yellow light coming from the left represent?
  • What religions are represented here?
  • What is the message of this painting?
3) How are the children feeling?
  • Can you imagine the father‘s thoughts?
  • What is the message of the painting?
4) What is your impression when looking at this picture?
  • -The viewer’s position:
  • -The general atmosphere : What is the message of this painting?

Rockwell and his time…The impact of this artwork

  • What happened to this series of paintings in 1943?
  • How much money did these paintings raise?
  • How many people saw it?
  • Why can we say this artwork is part of American history?
  • Do you think this work of art is famous nowadays?
Your opinion about this work of art. Say if you like it or not and justify your answer.