At a press briefing held Wednesday, March 29, at New York City’s historic Roosevelt House, Norman Rockwell Museum announced details of the first internationally touring exhibition devoted to Rockwell’s iconic depictions of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms. Organized by the Museum, Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms explores how Rockwell’s 1943 paintings—which gave visual voice to Roosevelt’s call to the defense of freedom worldwide—came to be embraced by millions of Americans, providing crucial aid to the War effort and taking their place among the most enduring images in the history of American art. The exhibition and its six-city tour will open at New-York Historical Society on May 25, 2018.
Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms tells the story of how the images underwent a metamorphosis from a series of illustrations into a national movement that inspired action under a common cause. The exhibition has been co-curated by Stephanie Haboush Plunkett, Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Norman Rockwell Museum, and James J. Kimble, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Communication & the Arts, Seton Hall University. During the briefing, Dr. Kimble explained that Rockwell’s paintings were a success because they “take FDR’s abstract concept and make it concrete.” Plunkett added that Rockwell made them “approachable for a broad spectrum of the American audience.” Museum Director/CEO Laurie Norton Moffatt noted that, unlike other World War II-era posters that demonized the enemy, Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were “more persuasive in the positive than negative.”
James Kimble, PhD, addresses crowd during Four Freedoms exhibition briefing, NYC, March 29, 2017.The exhibition, which provides a rare opportunity to see Rockwell’s images together outside their permanent home in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, will illuminate both the historic context in which FDR articulated the Four Freedoms and the role of Rockwell’s paintings in bringing them to life for millions of people, changing the tenor of the times. It will additionally show how the Four Freedoms paintings were the first in a sequence of works spanning three decades in which Rockwell addressed significant social concerns, from civil rights to the nation’s role and responsibilities at home and abroad.
In addition to The Four Freedoms, the exhibition will include paintings, illustrations, prints, and more by both Rockwell and a broad range of his contemporaries, from J.C. Leyendecker and Mead Schaeffer, to Arthur Szyk, Ben Shahn, and Dorothea Lange, among others. Throughout, historical documents, photographs, videos, and artifacts; interactive digital displays; and immersive settings, some using virtual reality technology, bring the era to life. The exhibition will be further enriched by a full roster of programs and activities for the public, students, and teachers, as well as a jury-selected group of contemporary interpretations of the Four Freedoms by artists working in a variety of disciplines.
Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms has been generously supported by national presenting sponsors Jay Alix | The Alix Foundation and George Lucas Family Foundation, and by national presenting co-sponsor The Travelers Companies, Inc. Additional support is provided by the National Endowment for the Arts, Helen Bing, Elephant Rock Foundation, Ford Foundation, Annie and Ned Lamont, Ted Slavin, and an anonymous donor. Media sponsors include: Curtis Licensing, a division of The Saturday Evening Post, and Norman Rockwell Family Agency.