Home Corporate Events Norman Rockwell’s Freedom to Worship Painting

Norman Rockwell’s Freedom to Worship Painting

by Ikenna Ngere

The second of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms oil paintings, Freedom of Worship or Freedom to Worship, was created by the American artist.

The Four Freedoms, which were outlined by Franklin D. Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States, in his State of the Union Address on January 6, 1941, served as the inspiration for the television series.

This picture and Freedom of Speech, in Rockwell’s opinion, were the two best works in the collection. Along with an essay by philosopher Will Durant, Freedom of Worship was published in The Saturday Evening Post on February 27, 1943.

The second of Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms series of four oil paintings is titled Freedom of Worship.

The Four Freedoms State of the Union Address, which President Franklin D. Roosevelt gave to the 77th United States Congress on January 6, 1941, served as the inspiration for the pieces. Only two of the Four Freedoms—freedom of expression and freedom of religion—are explicitly mentioned in the US Constitution.

The Four Freedoms theme was eventually incorporated into the Atlantic Charter, which served as the Allies’ World War II strategy declaration and was later incorporated into the United Nations Charter.

The paintings from the series, titled Freedom of Speech (February 20), Freedom of Worship (February 27), Freedom from Want (March 6), and Freedom from Fear (March 13), appeared in The Saturday Evening Post for four weeks in a row.

Durant, a best-selling author in the height of his success, was chosen by Post editor Ben Hibbs for the essay that accompanies Freedom of Worship. Durant and his wife, Ariel Durant, were coauthors of the ten-volume opus The Story of Civilization at the time.

Will Durant also delivered lectures on philosophy and history. The series of paintings eventually got extensively dispersed as posters and played a crucial role in the U.S. government’s War Bond Drive.

Painting depiction

In a small area, the painting depicts the profiles of eight heads. The different figures depict individuals of various religions praying. In particular, the three individuals in the bottom row, from right to left: a Jewish man with a hat on and a religious book; a Protestant older woman; and a Catholic young woman with a well-lit face and rosary beads.

In 1966, Rockwell illustrated a Look story headlined JFK’s Bold Legacy and utilized Freedom of Worship to express his respect for John F. Kennedy. In a composition resembling Freedom of Worship, the artwork features Peace Corps participants and Kennedy in profile.

The barbershop in the original artwork was filled with customers of many races and religions waiting for their time in the chair. His first effort was an oil painting measuring 41 by 33 inches (104 by 84 centimeters), which depicted tolerance as “the foundation for a democracy’s religious plurality.”

It featured a black guy and a Roman Catholic priest waiting for the services of a Protestant barber as he attended to a Jew. Because there was little consensus on what a member of a certain race or religion should look like, it was difficult to paint accurate representations of various religions and races.

However, as he made an effort to explain how the characters were portrayed, he found himself using obnoxious exaggeration, particularly with regard to the non-clerical individuals.

The job slowed down without properly representing the government by having a Jewish man appear stereotypically Semitic, dressing up a white consumer in preppy apparel, and relegating the black man to agrarian workman attire.

Rockwell wanted to convey the idea of religious tolerance, but he believed the initial composition fell short.

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