Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want,” 1943

Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943

Saturday Evening Post, March 6, 1943

This image by American painter Norman Rockwell appeared in the Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1943.  It was part of series inspired by President Franklin Roosevelt’s 1941 inaugural address, where he advocated a world based on what he called the four essential freedoms—freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear.

Although Roosevelt framed his speech as a vision for the world, Rockwell gives it a uniquely American interpretation. To demonstrate freedom from want, he shows a grandmother serving up a huge Thanksgiving turkey. Although there is not much clothing on display except for the hosts at the party, if you look carefully you might still guess that the gathering took place during wartime.  There are no military age adult males at the table—only one teenager and several older men.

Rockwell draws on the familiar image of the “cheerful granny” in this painting.  A stock figure in American advertising, happy grandmothers were employed to sell  everything from soap to soup.  Here the image is an advertisement for an idea not a product, but key elements are the same. Like others of her kind, this granny wears her gray hair pulled back into a bun, has on round “granny” glasses, and wears a print dress of the house dress/street dress variety. Her apron is another common element. I’m guessing that Rockwell hoped to comfort viewers with this nurturing figure, set in the context of a traditionally American holiday.

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One Response to Norman Rockwell’s “Freedom from Want,” 1943

  1. Carolyn Boyd says:

    Of course, I’m very familiar with this illustration. What caught my eye this time was the celery dish. I’ve got more than one, inherited from my mother, but have always privately wondered where and how one would use it. Now I see.

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