DAM Announces a Politically Charged Norman Rockwell Exhibit

An exhibit of Norman Rockwell illustrations about freedom is coming to the DAM.
An exhibit of Norman Rockwell illustrations about freedom is coming to the DAM.
Norman Rockwell
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Norman Rockwell may be best known for his quaint illustrations that appeared in The Saturday Evening Post and in ads depicting Santa Claus drinking Coca-Cola, but some of his work was politically charged, addressing racial equality, labor and the fight for freedom.

Inspired by Franklin D. Roosevelt, he joined fellow artists, filmmakers, musicians and other creatives in the 1940s in executing a massive propaganda effort on the part of the United States government to prepare the country to go to war.

Today, March 21, the Denver Art Museum announced a new exhibit, Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom. The show highlights the artist's works about Roosevelt's notion of the "four freedoms" that the president described in a 1941 speech: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom of want and freedom from fear.

The exhibit, curated by the Norman Rockwell Museum, will be at the DAM from May 3 to August 23, 2020.

“The presentation of Norman Rockwell: Imagining Freedom is the most comprehensive traveling exhibition to date of creative interpretations of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms,” says Christoph Heinrich, the director of the DAM, in a statement. “We look forward to presenting works that will challenge our visitors to consider the concepts of the common good, civic engagement and civil discourse.”

Like most Rockwell paintings, these depict everyday people living out their lives — only with a decidedly political tone. The works on display originally ran in The Saturday Evening Post and were also used by the government to bolster its war bond efforts.

“Recent scholars have recognized that Norman Rockwell was much more than an illustrator,” says Timothy Standring, the Denver-based curator bringing the project to the DAM, in a statement. “His ability to create powerful imagery and appeal to mass audiences about notions of civil discourse helped a country come together and rally for the greater public good. This incredibly difficult task of bringing people together makes his work relevant today, and ensures his inclusion in the canon of important American artists.”

The exhibit will also include post-war artworks looking at civil rights.

Norman Rockwell Imagining Freedom will run from May 3 to August 23, 2020, in the Anschutz Gallery and Martin & McCormick special exhibition galleries of the Denver Art Museum, 100 W 14th Avenue Parkway.

Correction: In an earlier version of this story, Norman Rockwell's name was misspelled in the headline. If you assumed it was a pun, thank you for your generosity. Sadly, no. It was a typo.

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