Norman Rockwell: The Tour and the Controversy

The Four Freedoms on Tour

Norman Rockwell
Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, Freedom from Want, 1943
War bond poster; U.S. Office of War Information
Collection of Norman Rockwell Museum
©SEPS: Curtis Licensing, Indianapolis, IN

Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms spoke to a nation in turmoil during World War ll. The paintings were created in response to President Roosevelt’s State of the Union address in 1941, in which he said that all people have the right to four fundamental freedoms:  freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

The government asked artists to illustrate the ideas that Roosevelt put forth in the speech, a speech given to a country that was war-weary, to remind them why America had to be part of defending the freedom of citizens around the world. Rockwell’s gift, as an artist and illustrator, was his ability to speak to clearly and emotionally to the issues he painted.

The Four Freedoms were initially rejected by the government, but were published in the Saturday Evening Post, for four straight weeks, beginning in February 1943. The Four Freedoms became very popular with the public, and the government used them as part of a touring exhibition, sponsored by The Post and the Department of the Treasury, which raised over $132 million in war bond sales.

The Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, has put together a traveling exhibition called Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms. The exhibit will travel to major venues in New York, Michigan, Detroit, Washington D.C., Massachusetts, Philadelphia, Houston and Normandy, France.

The Controversy

Norman Rockwell
Shuffleton’s Barbershop, 1950
Oil on canvas
31 x 33 inches
Cover illustration for The Saturday Evening Post, April 29, 1950.
Collection of the Berkshire Museum
©SEPS: Curtis Publishing, Indianapolis, IN.

The Berkshire Museum of Art in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, is struggling financially, and plans to sell forty paintings to help it get out of the red. Two of the paintings are Norman Rockwell’s, which were donated by the artist to the museum. One of the works, Shuffleton’s Barbershop, is one of Rockwell’s most masterful works and could fetch $20 to $30 million at auction.

The Rockwell paintings were supposed to be auctioned at Sotheby’s last November (that’s where they’re being kept at the moment) but two lawsuits – one filed by the Rockwell family and the Massachusetts Attorney General, another filed by local museum supporters – have stopped the sale.

The museum and the Attorney General’s Office are trying to resolve the dispute, which is about the right of the museum to sell art that was donated to the museum to be appreciated by the public.

Norman Rockwell at Surovek

Norman Rockwell
A Good Sign All Over the World.
Boys’ Life magazine cover, 1963

Twenty years after he painted The Four Freedoms, Rockwell painted A Good Sign All Over the World, a beautiful, hope cover for Boys’ Life magazine.

Norman Rockwell Study for A Good Sign All Over the World. 1963

Rockwell’s study for A Good Sign All Over the World is available at Surovek. Please contact us for more information about A Good Sign All Over the World or any of the other fine works for sale at Surovek.

See More Norman Rockwell Artwork for Sale

2021-03-18T17:24:04-04:00 February 5th, 2018|

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