This article ran on October 10th in The Wall Street Journal.
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Norman Rockwell’s inspiring and enduring painting
By BRUCE COLE
A hundred thousand people came to see them in Washington and New York, a million more in other major cities across the country. They were visited by a vice president, stars of screen and radio, and even survivors of the Bataan “Death March.” They raised millions of dollars for the purchase of war bonds, and were reproduced in over four million copies.
Sponsored by the Treasury Department and the Saturday Evening Post, the 1943 “Four Freedoms War Bond Exhibition” was our first national “blockbuster.” Exhibited not in museums or galleries, but in department stores for a year during the depths of World War II, it made an already well-known illustrator a household name.
What the crowds came to see were paintings: “Freedom of Speech,” “Freedom of Worship,” “Freedom From Want” and “Freedom From Fear” (now all prominently displayed in the Norman Rockwell Museum). In 1943 each had been reproduced, along with an accompanying essay by leading literary lights including Booth Tarkington and Stephen Vincent Benét, in successive issues of the Saturday Evening Post, a popular magazine for which Norman Rockwell had worked since 1916.
Rockwell discovered his subjects in Franklin Roosevelt’s State of the Union speech of Jan. 6, 1941, delivered 11 months before Pearl Harbor. In it, the president warns of the looming danger posed by aggressor nations, proposes Lend-Lease, and calls for a major increase in armament production. At the speech’s conclusion he looks toward the future, to a world founded upon “four essential freedoms.” To read the complete article, please follow this link.