During the summer of 1942, the American painter and illustrator Norman Rockwell
embarked on a series of paintings that would come to be known as "The Four Freedoms." Inspired by an impassioned speech
President Roosevelt had made a year earlier, this quartet of images — freedom from want, from fear, freedom of speech and of worship — were published in The Saturday Evening Post
the following winter, and remain among Rockwell's most celebrated works. They were also highly effective as a means of social impact. The Office of War Information distributed thousands as posters, and a 16-city tour of the paintings was seen by 1.2 million people, raising over $130 million dollars in war bonds. Writing in The New Yorker
few years later, one critic noted that as a series, these paintings
were received by the American public with more enthusiasm, perhaps,
than any other paintings in the history of American art.
Obviously, "The Four Freedoms" were not just art — they were propaganda in a time of war. The tension between the two has been embraced by the Wolfsonian Museum at Florida International University, which has commissioned 60 designers to design a new work inspired by Norman Rockwell’s posters. The exhibition, Thoughts on Democracy
, opens today in Miami (tomorrow being July 4th, Independence Day in the U.S.). Certain designers have followed the four-poster, four-freedoms model; some have chosen one of Roosevelt's four themes; and others have selected new freedoms, things neither envisioned by Franklin Delano Roosevelt nor by Norman Rockwell. The following is a selection of the commissioned posters.