tv American Artifacts Rockwell Roosevelt the Four Freedoms Exhibit CSPAN September 15, 2019 10:00pm-10:51pm EDT
great to talk to you. carla: you can follow me on twitter. [video clip] >> [laughter] carla: every day i put something up on the collection. thank you. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2019] announcer 1: you are watching "american history tv" all weekend every weekend on c-span3. i'm john wetenhall. i am director of the george washington university museum and text while -- textile museum here on the campus of george washington university in the heart of washington, dc. norman rockwell's "four freedoms" exhibition is a major traveling international show, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the norman rockwell museum, the 75th anniversary of d-day, and putting on the road great images paintedman rockwell
that really created the freedomsof the four that made real the statements that president roosevelt expressed in the state of the union address in 1941. >> this is freedom of speech and expression. everywhere in the world. second is freedom of every person who worships god in his own way everywhere in the world. the third is freedom from want, which translated in the world forum means economic understandings which will secure to every nation a healthy
peace-time life everywhere in the world. the fourth is freedom of fear. which translated in the world derms means a worldwi reduction of armaments to such a point and in such a thorough fashion that no nation would be in a position to commit an act of physical aggression against any neighbor anywhere in the world. [applause] john: what people forget today is that the concept of four freedoms did not take immediate hold on the national psyche. a few artists made images of freedoms. there was talk of freedoms, but it didn't capture the imagination in any way that people would be excited about until norman rockwell.
rockwell's four paintings of the four freedoms encapsulated made , understandable and tangible the values of those freedoms and were, arguably, the most prominent and public images -- domestic images of world war ii and unified the nation. the exhibition begins with some early rockwell paintings at the time of the new deal, the depression era, giving a new sense of what america was like prior to world war ii. and then it goes straight into the war years with videos of fdr's "four freedoms" speech, and some reactions to it from other artists trying to encapsulate the four freedoms in art and other images of world war ii, following the introduction of fdr's state of
the union address of 1941. we look at some of rockwell's early war images, images that were about the common person joining the military and what military life was like. a more lighthearted approach and then relive the heart of the exhibition is rockwell's wrestling with these images and coming up with imagery that would capture the ideals in a convincing manner and then the spread of those images across the united states, first through magazines, then through posters. the war bond drive, ultimately leading towards the end of world war ii. the show culminates with some of rockwell's great and lesser-known works that confront civil rights. and reimagine, i think, the values of the nation. finally as a coda to the exhibition the rockwell museum , organized some 40 artists'
work to be shown, work that was done contemporarily today, work by living artists to reflect on the values of four freedoms, or think about them and show a different context of how we might think of them today. well, let's begin our tour. i would like to show you before we look at the four freedoms, i would like to show you the earliest images rock made of well made of world war ii. he conceived a character named willie gillis who is actually a 15-year-old boy at the time, too young to enlist. but he created a series of images, paintings for the saturday evening post, that were a lighthearted look at life in the military. one of his more famous ones is willie gillis receiving the care package. and so you can see he has received the box of goodies and he has made quite a few friends. the friends have lined up all looking at his package. it became kind of a lighthearted
symbol of the military together, life on the base, training, and this kind of thing. and it would have been a cover for the saturday evening post. today, sometimes these images change a little bit subsequent to their publishing on the post. i can show you in this one exactly what i mean. but first let me -- it is important for us to know that these images for rockwell were valuable as photographs to go on the cover of a magazine. the pictures themselves were not intended for museum use or sale or these kind of things as we think about in the art world. there were images to be photographed, and he was paid for the photograph, the image to cover, and they gave the painting back to him. so rockwell retained the picture, and after they had been published later on, sometimes
the image of the paintings themselves would have been given away or sold to others. this one, i am pretty sure, was sold to someone else. i can show you why. if you look at the background and actually look at the hands, this is a magnificent painting. this is an artist who has command of his craft and can reproduce the visual imagery in a meticulous manner. rockwell, his brush and his reproductive skills were as good as good as a photograph, sometimes better. if you look back, you see the get -- the background gets murky and all of a sudden a great painter has sprayed some paint on the sleeve on his image. rockwell didn't do that. somebody did it to later when they painted the background and took out the lines from the saturday evening post. there are other images of willie
gillis. this one was never published. willie, the young recruit, remember he was too young to recruit but posing in this picture, the rabbits foot for good luck, looking starry eyed naively as these hardened citizens are eating, smoking, looking around, the veterans of war. it was actually thought about as a little bit too harsh a contrast and not published in the saturday evening post. this painting just to the side of it here, really one of the better willie gillis images, one of the more poignant ones. willie in a place of worship with military superiors in front and behind thinking about what is to come. the painting here, war news, was
painted by rockwell late in 1944. and it is an image of people in small-town america listening to their news, getting their news from a newspaper and the radio in the back. it is really a magnificent composition in that the artist takes you through the counter to this group of people listening, watching. all coming hands, together. we know from a sketch that the newspaper was to have on its cover a headline that says "war plans for france." so there was a potential invasion of france talked about prior to d-day on the radio. and the figures here are gathering the news, listening to the news as they would have and showing the concern of the people at home about the war
abroad. this was actually not a cover and was not submitted to the saturday evening post because rockwell considered it too subtle and too hard for people to understand and read. he made another picture about the radio elsewhere in the exhibition. and this image of the poster is the only image that rockwell painted of actual combat taking place. rockwell was uncomfortable of -- with the concept of painting war in action. that was not really what he did, but he did this one showing the bullets being spent. "let's give him enough and on time." it was a poster to rally the factory workers. the munitions plants to excite the people on the homefront to support the war effort. and this was an image meant to
show that bullets are needed and this fighting figure, still with all the details of rockwell, the realistic imagery and all of this, very cleverly covers his face so that the fighter is an fighting foranyman the values of the nation. norman rockwell's quest to paint the four freedoms actually begin -- began in failure. he came to washington, dc and presented them at the office of war information. the leadership at the time rejected the idea and sent him away without a commission to paint roosevelt's four freedoms. on his trip home, however, he stopped in philadelphia and met with his editors of the saturday evening post, who embraced the idea and instructed rockwell to
go home, not to work on other features, but to focus on the four freedoms. he was given three months to do the four freedoms. it took him seven to conceive and paint the pictures once he began. the first painting that he worked on, the one that gave him the inspiration of the series was freedom of speech. as rockwell recalls in his biography, he woke up -- he was struggling as rockwell always did, struggling to come up with the concept, the idea of how he would embody an abstract idea such as freedom of speech. and he says he woke up one night and recalled a meeting in the town of arlington where he lived at the time, and a debate that took place in arlington about whether or not to rebuild the school that had recently burned down, or whether the children
would be bussed to the next district and taxes would be saved. he remembered an incident when his neighbor rose to oppose the idea of building the new school. and what he remembered was the rest of the meeting listening respectfully, hearing the point of view, and then by the way the gentleman lost the vote. the town voted to enact the tax and to borrow $80,000 to build the new school house. so this was a dissenting voice, and rockwell made a series of studies after. he woke up in the morning very early and started sketching and creating images. we have some of his sketches showing rockwell wrestling with the various ways that he could articulate this image, this idea of freedom of speech and what he remembers. and over a series of images, he
came with the idea of essentially putting a blackboard in the background, a neutral background so that the speaker would stand tall amongst a group of people who are listening, holding the annual report of the town, the agenda of the meeting, the agenda here of the taxes. and you see eyes looking and ears emphasized because freedom of speech is about the obligation to listen and respectful listening. so rockwell created this image that showed everyone paying respect and proper attention. and by the way, that is an image of norman rockwell in the far corner, also showing his ears and his eyes listening to the speech. freedom of religion is probably the most difficult image rockwell had to create.
because how often do people of different religions come together in a place of worship? people worship separately each in their own home. places worship. so rockwell created a composition of humanity together, of different faiths all praying to a common god, each according to the dictates of his own conscious. freedom from want, rockwell painted during thanksgiving. while there are two family members, his mother and his wife, the rest are neighbors and friends that rockwell posed to create an american family celebrating thanksgiving. it is really a symphony of white and a masterwork of still life.
water glasses, not the most lavish dutch still life you would see. rather sparse except for the enormous turkey that is going to be there and the figures gathering here, much like the saints would be gathered in a renaissance painting on each side, and the centerpiece gathering you together with kind of a divine light looking in through the windows and the beautifully painted draperies that show white against white, against a white tablecloth, against clear glasses, showing a kind of a clean and un-messy table, showing americans coming together to celebrate thanksgiving in good cheer and family unity. a concept worth preserving, worth fighting for.
and freedom from fear, we have a mother and a father tucking in the two children. the newspaper has bombings, horror, and references, probably the bombings of london, the london blitz of world war ii. and if you look around the edges of this kind of scene of serenity and peace, you work around the edges and you see a doll, a reference possibly to a body of war and the light in the back, to me at least, references the orange glow of the firebombing in the back. it's one of the more subtle images that shows the images of horror overseas, that references them, and shows the threat to the future generations. as i said before, the paintings
of rockwell were not the images that america saw. if you follow me, i can show you that americans would have come to learn about rockwell's four freedoms through images in the saturday evening post. from february through april every other week, one of rockwell's images appeared with, on a full-page spread, with an essay by a writer of their interpretation of freedom of speech or freedom of worship. the saturday evening post circulated to millions of people. so americans would have seen these images, much like americans today might have seen images on a television, and would have talked about it in their community. some of these essays are really
quite poignant. the freedom of worship, one of the more difficult abstract pictures in the series, actually has a magnificent essay by the writer will durrant. just read a couple of passages. "man differs from animal, from the animal in two things, he laughs and he prays. but the mark of a man as he beats his head against the riddle of life, knows his infinite weakness of body and mind, lifts up his heart to a hidden presence and power, and finds in his faith a beacon of heart rendering hope, a pillar of strength for his fragile decency." the essay end is wonderful here. "if our sons and brothers accomplish this by their toil and suffering, they can carry to all mankind the boon and stimulus of an ordered liberty. it will be an achievement the
size of which all the triumphs of caesar, alexander and napoleon will be a little thing. to that purpose they are offering their youth and their blood. to that purpose and to whom we others, regretting that we cannot stand beside them, dedicate the remainder of our lives." so americans saw these, read about them, and the following month, april 1943, there was a war bond drive. these images, having been rejected initially, became embraced by the federal war bond drive. the images were adopted as the symbols for the second bond drive. the concept was that americans would invest, pay funds pay
, money for a bond that wouldn't mature in a number of years. it was $18 and in 10 years the bond would pay you back $25. but the concept was the idea was , they needed the nation to all come together quickly to raise the funds from munitions and for -- to equip the nation's soldiers appropriately. ♪ hollywood's most famous movie -- >> hollywood's most famous movie stars leave the film capital to help the government sell war bonds. irene done, ronald goldman, patty lamarr, all part of a contingent of 1950's screen celebrities giving their talents to aid the national war effort. john: and so in the second drive, the four freedoms were adopted as images of the bond drive. there was a publicity campaign went to 17 different cities, starting in washington, dc. and rockwell came to the department store in dc, and they
showed off the posters. and they printed in the millions duplicate sets of the four freedoms, a set of four smaller images that were given to you when you bought the bonds. you bought a bond, you received images of the four freedoms to put up in your home. the large posters would have been sent around the country in post offices, and schools, and elsewhere to rally the nation to buy war bonds. so the dissemination of this image in 1943, the spring of 1943 was pervasive. and was seen as the face of the war effort at that time. norman rockwell was trained as an illustrator. he studied in the arts students
league in new york, learned the basics of painting and drawing the human body, and mastered his craft essentially with the skill of being able to re-create in drawings or in paintings as accurately and realistically as a camera might. although rockwell said in his autobiography that he sometimes looked at the world as a little too messy and not quite as ideal as he would like it to be, and therefore he made it more ideal in his paintings. he became extraordinarily well known through his art, first working for the boy scouts, and then working for magazines, the great one being the saturday evening post. as an artist who appeared on the cover of the post, millions of people would see his art, far
more than were he an artist who was making paintings for a wealthy patron or a museum, say. he was a very popular artist and chronicled american life from teens through the 1920's, 1930's, the 1940's, up until the early 1970's. where this exhibition begins, it is kind of info early 1930's. there is an image here from a saturday evening post cover of returning home from vacation. this is a year after the stock market crash of times were bad, 1929. it was a market downturn. it was not the depression yet. rockwell could look at life in a very lighthearted way. this is the vacation from which you need a vacation. the family has returned home exhausted.
a little frog coming out the hastily packede suitcase, the camera, shoes untied, worn out with signs about a wonderful vacation. it is something most people -- many americans could relate to. could see a little bit of their own lives in the cover of the saturday evening post which made the magazine so welcoming and when the post delivered, people would see something they would relate to at the time. next to this picture is another painting of a vacation from 1938. but it is quite different. posters of vacations, exotic ports of call, paris, mountains, vacations, and now six years into the depression dashboard, a salesperson with no customers,
unsuccessful.d, this was the vacation in america in the late 1930's as the ravages of the depression, unemployment were spreading throughout the nation. vacation meant something quite different. remember the painting i showed you of the gentleman around the -- the gentlemen around the lunch counter that were listening to the radio? following that painting, rockwell painted this, a gentleman listening to the radio by himself in his home trying to hear the news. that's a much more personal image than the gentlemen at the lunch counter. i will show you why. first look at his hand trying to dial in. you can imagine the static on the radio trying to get the sound clear so he can hear, hear the messages that are coming
through the radio. and on his lap you can see the father with maps of france and england, a map of europe, the channel with the direction that he understands the armies to be -- the military forces to be taking. and up above him, eisenhower and macarthur. three stars and three photographs from the navy, the army and the air force. three sons, the man. you see the clues around maps and the like, you realize he is trying to track the progress his sons would be making on the war front, each deployed in different areas. you can see the map behind american flags have been pinned , onto the map. we can only presume these are the locations that he believes his sons are fighting in.
the painting by the way was later -- this was a saturday evening post picture, and later given away to the editor of the berkshire eagle in western massachusetts. so what rockwell did is he repainted the newspaper on the ground as the berkshire eagle and then dedicated it to the staff, to his friend and the staff of the berkshire either. wherele, another instance the image would have been photographed, circulated in magazine form, the actual painting residing with the artist, rockwell himself given , away to a friend. end as world war ii ended in thanksgiving 1945, rockwell made this image of the returning soldier with his mother for the thanksgiving
issue of the magazine, sitting on the chair that is a little bit too small for him. probably his boyhood chair, civilian shoes but his military uniform peeling the , potatoes as people remember doing that, but in a joyous way as a homecoming and it was meant -- an image of something for hich to be truly thankful. >> people's images of norman rockwell in the saturday evening post, the americana, even kitsch sometimes, people think about that and don't always know the late paintings of his career after he left the post. in 1961 the post was bought out. it was a change in management and rockwell left and no longer
had to conform to the standards and scriptures and expectations of the saturday evening post reader. he could work on images he wanted to do. he ended up with the rival to life magazine. showing americans at war primarily through photographs but in 1964 he made an image that has come to be quite famous. called "the problem we all live with." it was painted in 1963, reflecting on an incident in 960. the first little girl who was brought to an all-white school as new orleans was segregated. the occasion was the 10th anniversary of brown versus the board of education, the supreme court case that mandated
integration in the schools and declared separate but equal was not sufficient in the united tates. however, it was understood that many communities, the foot dragging, the delays, the lack of care was delaying the integration of these schools. rockwell, troubled by that in the 10th anniversary, looked ack, reached back for this image of ruby bridges and reimagined it based on photographs, documents, and created his own image that was starkly different in artistic ways from the images you would have seen in the photograph. the photograph shows the arshals, who would have to
escort ruby bridges from her ome into the school. bringing them into the all-white school -- in this case he has moved the heads of the marshals and only showed them as figures of authority. marching the first grader off to school, ruby bridges. he has made her elegantly dressed. in fact, rockwell commissioned a resident of his town in massachusetts to make a new dress in white for his model or this image. otice in her book that she stars -- she wrote stars on the book. originally in the drawings, and it's a vile background of this picture. the tomatos being thrown.
the vile graffiti here. k.k.k. it's a horrid image. a horrid scene at the time when protesters and angry mobs were t the side of the roads, screaming at the poor girl as she was going to school at the time. rockwell was so troubled by this. in his original image, he had ruby on this side, and she couldn't be in the middle because it was a two page magazine spread. the crease was in the middle. rockwell decided to move her to the front so that a little girl was leading the marshals, as opposed to the marshals leading the little girl. lives in new till orleans and has a foundation
and is a trustee of the norman rockwell museum. this painting, i should add, was also brought to the white house, president obama. he asked for this painting, had it in the white house and ruby bridges came to the white house, and she showed president obama the image. >> if it hadn't been for you guys i might not have be here. we would not be looking at this together. >> just having him say that meant a lot to me. it always has. to be standing shoulder to houlder with history and viewing history, as just a nce-in-a-lifetime. > 1965, rockwell wanted to reproduce for a magazine the ruesome killing of three
students who went to mississippi to enroll voters. they were killed by the clansmen. in his drawings, rockwell focused on the gore and the assailants. in his final image he instead chose to make them in shadows so you couldn't see the real perpetrators of the coin. you saw them as shadows, as houls. as some of the great artists have showed evil and made it people in a ubiquitous manner. something that would be too easy to attribute to one or two individuals. this is humanity's evil trying o wipe out good.
rockwell was very conflicted about the vietnam war. he was troubled by the news he heard in 1965, 1966, 1967. at one point, he was commissioned to do some paintings on the marines and decided not to follow through because of his conflict with the war. in working through his thoughts, he came up with this image from 1968 called the right to know. recognizing the people have the obligation and right to understand the purposes for which the nation goes to wars. you see the empty chair here, he chair of authority. people of diverse walks of american life.
and g, old, in suits, norman rockwell himself has come to ask. i think and making it plain and not rotating it as something pecific as congress with a microphone or with a person there has made this a more symbolic, more ubiquitous right, rather than an incident. the right to know would probably have been something rockwell would have thought about in the way he would freedom. as people think of rockwell as the typical american family and the like, as he grew more mature and thoughtful, rockwell created a series of paintings and images ringing together diverse people. the his case, a study for
united nations. as political figures, but surrounded by people from the world. a gandhi figure there. all nations brought together in contemplation, expectation, hope, desire that the diverse peoples of the world could come ogether. we see this theme throughout the last years of his life. as he does such work as the golden rule that reflects upon religion. all agreeing the common theme that doing unto others as you would have do unto you. rockwell celebrated the diversity of people and the diversities of cultures. someone more global citizen then we today remember him s.
but his paintings and images and drawings reflect that. in this exhibition, we have carried that team forward. the rockwell museum put out a call for artists who wish to re flect upon the theme of freedom of america today. over 1,000 entries were received from a jury from around the country, selective works by 40 artists to reflect upon rockwell's freedoms and freedom of america today. the show ends with these images hat people can go by and see odern takes on rockwell. pops peterson, who lives near the rockwell museum, obviously
freedom from fear, except the newspaper has changed to, "i can't breathe." we have other images of freedom of speech today. shouting, accusing, pointing. information. fake, fake, fake, fake news. people gathering their news as they wish from sources they wish. we have seen in the images that have been submitted by the artists much greater diversity f subject. people black, white, from diverse cultures, from all creeds, freedom of speech and liberty, and all national values with religious figures from around the world all coming together. man rights and ellenor roosevelt.
this has been an exhibition extremely popular with guests. particularly young people, who sometimes see the freedom of expression as expressed in the 1940's as sometimes imiting. sometimes monolithic. and now understanding that freedom in america today is something that is vitally mportant from that perspective to what extent one sees such freedoms and bestow the respect on others. you can go through this part of the exhibition and see various themes of different peoples and certain inhibitors of liberties, such as the intrusiveness of electronics and surveillance that enters people's homes. religious figures, the dalai lama, gandhi, all part of the same family.
ockwellian in ideal. more diverse, more inclusive from the perspective of today's artists and viewers. here are certainly some images of resistance, and a reminder that the nation has fallen short of its ideals. cultural intolerance virtually wrapped in the flag. for the student body, when the galleries are most full, they tend to be here, looking at what contemporary artists are reflecting upon. whether it be today and perhaps seeing themselves in these images and identifying themselves amongst the various competing positions of these ital issues today.
i found this has been an xhibition that has brought great diversity to the museum and people from all walks of life throughout the washington, d.c. community. most of all students and graduate students from george washington university. monuments of the 18th and 19th and some 20th century. i have written a book on the iwo jima monument. i knew quite a bit about it. i knew rockwell's art, but i knew how skillful he was as an artist. i knew his ability to re-create the visual was extraordinary. as great as most artists alive or have ever lived, perhaps.
but it was always thought to be a little light, a little fussy, a little too americana. some people would have called it kitch. when you see him wrestling with the serious issues of freedom, when he had to get away from the softer side of american life as seen in family magazine and saturday evening post, instead look at the struggles of the nation and the perils of the world, he became much more serious and was an artist of much more depth and thought than i had originally thought. rockwell was a person of profound thought living up to ts values and found that sometimes the nation fell short. he had the courage to look at
segregation and housing. racial bias. also with hope and united nations and peace corps, religions of the world coming together. if he was an artist who reflected with some thoughtfulness the american condition. maybe as an artist, a lot of times people talk about art, not just being an mage but a mirror. how the mirror reflects the society around it. rockwell was a mirror on the american psyche. >> and during ideal, rockwell, roosevelt and the four freedoms is a traveling exhibit with stops in houston, denver, and september 2020 to anuary 2021 at the norman rockwell museum in massachusetts.
you can watch this and other american history tv programs on -span.org/history. ♪ >> is house will be in order. >> for 40 years c-span has been providing america unfiltered coverage of congress, the white house, the supreme court and events from washington, d.c. and around the country so you can make up your own mind. created by cable in 1979, c-span is brought to you by your local cable or satellite provider. your unfiltered view of overnment. >> american history tv is on c-span 3 every weekend featuring museum tours, programs on the presidency and the civil war and more. here is a clip from a recent
program. >> there is another confederate army that has defended twice in this war and will depend behind a major military obstacle. it will already have two or three contingency plans ready to engage when the yankees start to get active. that of course is the army of northern virginia and the 1864. of 1863 and slee ready. he thought about it, spoke about it with his team. he know what is he needs to do. just a matter of activating the contingency plan. that is coordination and collaboration. that's what a successful organization needs to be able to achieve its object i ever and get done what it needs to get done. do you think any of that is flept the army of tennessee? absolutely not.
you see it in flat-footed reaction by general bragg. almost 72 houres into a campaign and he is only now thinking about what he needs to do. tries to cobble together a counter offensive under a general he just tried to court-martial a couple of weeks ago. this is one of the saddest stories in confederate military history. in american mystery history i would submit to you as well. but that is -- they spent so much time in the spring and summer fighting paper battles over what has gone before they forgot the enemy right in front of them wearing blue june forms. >> you can watch this and other american history programs on our website where all of our video is archived. that is c-span .org/history. >> monday night on the communicators, california
, on entative mcnerney, election security and whether big tech companies need more regulation. >> google is a tech-based company. if we want to look at how it is doing its business practices, it is important to do it in a very thoughtful way. i know that the department of ustice are talking about doing investigations in anti-competitive practices of these companies. it is good to look at it and investigate it and make is that -- that the companies are behaving. if you break up a company up like that, if you can manage to do it, there is going to be independent consequences. >> monday at 8:30 p.m. eastern on c-span 2.
>> next, from the kansas city city public y, library, university of north dakota history professor talks about her book, constructing cultural memory. she highlights some of the stat choose of pioneer mothers in the kansas city area. >> welcome everyone, thank you for being here. i'm manager of the missouri valley special collection. our research room was headquartered across the hall. you will find books, manuscripts and journals and other research materials document and kansas city's early histories the frontier town, and out better for traveler setting out on the santa fe trail. it was november 12, 1927 when