Just in time for the new year, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston presents the quintessential exhibition for the whole family to contemplate liberty and art together: "Norman Rockwell: American Freedom."
The exhibition centers around Rockwell’s representational paintings depicting what President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s four freedoms could look like for all Americans. First introduced as ideals for all of humanity in Roosevelt’s iconic, 1941 State of the Union address, the four freedoms are Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. Rockwell’s illustrations of those rights became the vision for many Americans after their publication in the Saturday Evening Post as the U.S joined World War II.
Originally organized as "Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms" by the Norman Rockwell Museum Stockbridge, Massachusetts, the exhibition has made several national and international stops, but the MFAH will be its only Texas venue.
Along with Rockwell’s paintings, this first comprehensive exhibition devoted to the Four Freedoms will also offer historical documents, photographs, videos, artifacts, and interactive digital displays to help visitors find further perspective into Rockwell’s work and era.
Organized into chronological and thematic sections, "Norman Rockwell: American Freedom" will explore life and political reality of the early 1940s, as World War II raged in Europe, that led to Roosevelt’s delivery of his Four Freedoms speech. The exhibition also highlights how artists responded to, and began to represent, these freedoms in their art. The next section reviews Rockwell’s contribution and how the reproduction of the images in the Saturday Evening Post gave freedom a face, that of ordinary Americans.
The exhibition concludes with Rockwell’s post-World War II depiction of the legacies of the freedoms, especially focusing on human rights themes. A dramatic highlight of the show will likely be his iconic The Problem We All Live With and its portrayal of a 6-year-old African American girl being escorted by U.S. marshals to her first day at an all-white school in New Orleans.
As a contemporary companion exhibition, the MFAH will also present "The Four Freedoms Photography Project," created by Hank Willis Thomas and Emily Shur in collaboration with Eric Gottesman and New York-based photographer Wyatt Gallery. The exhibition features 16 photographs that update and reimagine Rockwell’s paintings to reflect a 21st-century America.
"Norman Rockwell: American Freedom," opened December 15, 2019, and remains on view through March 22, 2020, at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston.