Research Resources

Curricular Tools

Rockwell's Four Freedoms

Rockwell's Four Freedoms offer a wide range of opportunities for teaching: in cultural history, in social studies, in art, and of course in language studies, both intermediate and advanced. The stories behind the paintings are rich and interesting, and the paintings themselves encourage the student to think, articulate, and write about a wide range of topics, from "what Americans look like" to "wartime propaganda". We've included all four of the paintings in two versions. Shown are the smaller images, detailed enough to be used in classes or presentations, but small enough to load with only some delay. If you click on the images themselves, you are taken to a much larger visual file, suitable for conversion to printable handouts and the like.

Historical Context and Materials

The Paintings Evolve

Bibliography of Further Sources

Freedom of Speech (1943)

Freedom of Speech (1943)

Freedom of Speech was Rockwell's first painting, achieved after a number of false starts, in which the focus was diffuse or the meaning incompletely articulate.

Freedom of Worship (1943)

Freedom of Worship (1943)

This was the painting that underwent perhaps the most dramatic transformation from early draft to final version: originally, Rockwell had painted a local barber shop, with subtly stereotyped representatives of differing religions amicably arguing. But the point was far too obtuse, and he went to this more direct, didactic and sentimentalized depiction.

Freedom from Want (1943)

Freedom from Want (1943)

This is the most celebrated of the four paintings, today, and the one least modified to the war effort during its early, wartime, life. It is a celebration of particularly American material comfort, but it was a bit too prosperous and free from want to serve the largest democratic polity. During the postwar years, when prosperity and material success became watchwords of American identity, it reappeared to supplant the other three in the popular imagination.

Freedom from Fear (1943)

Freedom from Fear

While this is the least well-known of all four paintings, today, and the one most evidently dated by everything from headline to doll to costume to gender-roles, it is perhaps the most useful to assign as a historical document to parse out and analyze.