HOUSTON, TX.- The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston
, presents Norman Rockwell: American Freedom. The presentation is the first comprehensive exhibition devoted to Norman Rockwells iconic depictions of FDRs Four Freedoms Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Wantexploring how the 1943 paintings came to be embraced by millions of Americans, providing crucial aid to the war effort and taking their place among the most indelible images in the history of American art. The exhibition will be on view at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, from December 15, 2019, through March 22, 2020.
Houston is the fifth venue for the acclaimed exhibitions seven-city tour and is organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum. The exhibition debuted at The New-York Historical Society in May 2018. In addition to the Four Freedoms, Norman Rockwell: American Freedom features paintings, illustrations, and prints by Rockwell and a range of his contemporaries. Throughout the exhibition, historical documents, photographs, videos, artifacts, and interactive digital displays bring the era to life.
The exhibition is organized into five thematic sections that examine the context for Rockwells work.
The War Generation
The exhibition opens with a look at the political and socio-economic backdrop against which Roosevelt announced the Four Freedoms. A recording of one of Roosevelts famous Fireside Chats, this one from April 14, 1938, will enable visitors to hear from the president himself as he addresses the crushing struggles of the Great Depression, conveyed through newsreel footage and photographs by Walker Evans, Dorothea Lange, Arthur Rothstein, and others.
This section turns to Roosevelts emphatic proclamation of the Four Freedoms as a rationale to enter the war, presented in his 1941 address to Congress. The speech and the subsequent incorporation of the Freedoms into the Atlantic Charterevoked here through photographs and documentswas not able to rally the nation behind the war. The presentation includes drawings and published illustrations by Rockwell and others intended to gain support for the war effort.
Artistic Response to the Four Freedoms Ideals
This section documents the governments efforts to promote these ideals to the public by encouraging artists across disciplines to interpret Roosevelts Freedoms, including a range of tributes to the Freedoms in the form of sculpture, paintings, prints, and drawings for the campaign. A group of powerful World War II propaganda posters in this section includes examples that addressed life on the home front, and that were intended to rally support for the troops and remind the public of its civic duty.
Rockwells Four Freedoms
This section addresses Rockwells interpretation of Roosevelts Four Freedoms and how, thanks largely to their reproduction in The Saturday Evening Post, they would come to be embraced by millions. Rockwell found himself challenged to find a way to translate the presidents lofty ideals into something that would touch the daily lives and hearts of average American citizens. While struggling to find a solution, he happened to attend a local town-hall meeting where a man stood up to voice an unpopular view. It was then that Rockwell realized he could best paint the freedoms from the perspective of his own hometown experiences, using everyday scenes like that town meeting. The simple approach turned out to be the key to transformational change: Rockwells images immediately became inseparable from Roosevelts Four Freedoms in the public imagination.
The exhibition concludes by following the postwar outcomes of Roosevelts Four Freedoms. Central to this section is Rockwells ongoing focus on the theme of human rights, bringing his Four Freedoms paintings to the postwar era. After a 47-year career with The Post in 1963, Rockwell sought new artistic challenges. His painting The Problem We All Live With portrays a six-year-old African-American girl being escorted by U.S. marshals to her first day at an all-white school in New Orleans, an assertion of moral decency.