Monday, November 23, 2009
Norman Rockwell, Freedom From Want, 1943. War bond poster. Story illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943. Oil on canvas, 45 3/4 x 35 1/2 in.
In the world of art Thanksgiving is exemplified by this painting Freedom From Want by Norman Rockwell. This image, also known as Thanksgiving Dinner, was the third in a series of four works from Rockwell's famous Four Freedoms series. The Four Freedoms were inspired by a speech given by FDR before congress where he spoke about the four basic freedoms to which every person was entitled. Rockwell's Four Freedoms were shown in The Saturday Evening Post in the same order as President Roosevelt presented them in his speech (freedom of speech, freedom to worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear).
Freedom from Want is probably Rockwell's most recognized and beloved composition. As one of the covers from The Saturday Evening Post he spent quite a lot of time working on this piece. A major concern was to show the family not "in want" and yet at the same time not create an image of overabundance and selfish indulgence.
Rockwell was known for putting family and friends into images, which is this case here, as the "grandma" is actually a depiction of the Rockwell family cook, Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton. We also feel as if we are a friend or family member at the table because of how the artist set up his composition. In the painting Rockwell extends the table beyond the borders of the canvas, beckoning us over to our seat at the end of the table by the sly glance of the gentleman in the lower right corner. Thus giving the perception that we are actually an invited guest at the table.
For me, this image includes a typical Midwestern spread and has all the components of this holiday. The table has the good china placed out for the occasion, all the carving tools are at the head of the table as Grandma proudly brings in her prized bird, children and grandchildren are happily conversing all around the table with their heads turning in every direction with huge smiles on their faces. It is a simple, humble, yet extremely joyful American tradition that Rockwell has given us here in his painting of Freedom From Want. This is the image of an American Thanksgiving that we have held in our heads and hearts for the last 65 years.
Wishing you and yours a bountiful and happy Thanksgiving, gobble-gobble!
May inspiration and creativity be with you!