Visit the Exhibit: Enduring Freedoms: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms


This lesson will introduce students to the special exhibit Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt, and the Four Freedoms. Paintings, drawings, photographs, films and archival objects will be available for students to view and discuss as a group. A field trip to the exhibit will give students the opportunity to experience authentic artwork and archival materials, and encourage dynamic conversation about the life and work of Norman Rockwell. The exhibit will introduce students to the connections between art, history, and American culture, and inspire personal perceptions and interpretations. Students will analyze the composition of artworks using artistic vocabulary.  

This lesson is designed for one half-day visit. If you are unable to visit the exhibition in person, you can view many of the exhibition items and related information online at  

Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt & the Four Freedoms has five sections to explore: The War Generation, Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms, Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, The Artistic Response, and Freedom’s Legacy. The exhibit commemorates the  75th anniversary of the end of WWII and celebrates the history and values of the  Four Freedoms.

The War Generation focuses on the Great Depression, the impending threat of war and the economic and racial inequalities present in society at that time.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms includes archival documents and film of the president’s Four Freedoms speech, as well as photographs, films, political cartoons, World War II era posters and advertisements.

Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms focuses on the original paintings that Rockwell created to illustrate the ideals reflected in President Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms speech. Each painting was published in The Saturday Evening Post in February and March 1943. Each illustration appeared with a related essay by a noted author. Included in this section are unique studies for Freedom of Speech, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom presented to Rockwell in 1977 by President Gerald Ford.

The Artistic Response includes art and music that clarified, supported, and inspired the American people’s interest in President Roosevelt’s ideals.

Freedom’s Legacy offers a post-war perspective on President Roosevelt’s ideals and the impact of the work of Eleanor Roosevelt, which encouraged individuals around the world to work toward social change. Rockwell’s socially significant artworks focusing on civil rights and human rights are featured in this section of the exhibition.

Enduring Understandings/Essential Questions:

  1. President Roosevelt named the Four Freedoms as Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Worship, And Freedom of Speech.
  2. The Four Freedoms are for all citizens of the world.
  3. The Four Freedoms are reflected in our lives.
  4. Norman Rockwell’s pictures and the work of other artists include visual clues that help construct a narrative story.
  5. Visual images have the ability to influence the way we think and feel.
    • Are the Four Freedoms named by President Roosevelt relevant today?
    • Do all citizens of the world enjoy these freedoms in the same way?
    • How are the Four Freedoms reflected in your life?
    • What does “freedom” mean to you?
    • How do artists interpret ideas in visual form?
    • What elements of art make narrative storytelling possible?
    • How do images inspire us and influence the way we think and feel?



  • Visit the exhibition, Enduring Ideals: Rockwell, Roosevelt and the Four Freedoms, or view it online.
  • Students will closely examine each of Norman Rockwell’s  Four Freedoms illustrations and other works in the exhibition for their historic relevance as well as artistic elements.
  • Using Visual Thinking Strategies (provided as a resource), students will analyze artworks in relation to color, line, texture, shapes, and form.
  • Students will describe how the elements of character, plot, and setting help to tell visual stories.
  • Students will explore how specific details and expressions in artwork help to tell visual stories.
  • Students will observe and describe how specific details convey a sense of time. place, and meaning in art.
  • Students will recognize that there are various purposes for creating works of visual art.


World War II began in 1939. The United States was not involved in the beginning of the war, however, President Franklin Roosevelt believed that the United States would eventually need to play a larger role. In January 1941, he made his speech to Congress. In his speech, President Roosevelt named the Four Freedoms, which he stated are the right of everyone in the world. After the speech, in an effort to convey the underlying message of the Four Freedoms, the President reached out to the art world for help. Many artists created works to reflect the meaning of these freedoms in the form of paintings, sculptures, prints, musical compositions, and more. Norman Rockwell thought a lot about these ideals. In February and March of 1943, his completed Four Freedoms illustrations were published in The Saturday Evening Post, each along with a related essay by a noted author. Exceedingly popular at the time and distributed widely as prints and posters, Norman Rockwell's illustrations raised over $132 million toward the war effort through the purchase of war bonds. Prints of Rockwell’s Four Freedoms were given as premiums when people purchased war bonds in varying denominations. His illustrations became the face of the Four Freedoms and they continue to represent the meaning of these freedoms today.


Multimedia Resources:

Freedom of Speech

Freedom of Worship

Freedom from Want

Freedom from Fear

President Roosevelt's Four Freedom Speech

Franklin D. Roosevelt's Four Freedoms

Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms

A Conversation with Ruby Bridges Hall

Womanpower: The Fight for the Four Freedoms

The Atlantic Charter: Hope for a New World

Classroom Supplies:

  • index cards/ pencils
  • If you are unable to view the exhibit at one of the nearby museums,  the following is a link to the on-line exhibit:


  1. Prior to the field trip, or to viewing the exhibition online, introduce students to the life and work of Norman Rockwell (see lesson Introduction to Norman Rockwell: American Illustrator.)
  2. Begin viewing the exhibition, in person or online, with Norman Rockwell’s Four Freedoms, and two or more works by other artists. Encourage students to participate and share something that they observe. Conversations about the art may focus on the use of color, line, texture, shape, form, detail, and meaning.
  3. Continue viewing the exhibition, section by section, coming together periodically to share student observations.

4. With students, identify and discuss symbols that reference aspects of American culture and twentieth century life.

  1. Exit Task: Have the students verbally or in written form on a index size paper, reflect on the visit to the exhibit, in person or online, by answering the following questions:
  • What did you enjoy most about the exhibit?
  • What is something that you learned that you didn't know before?
  • What would you still like to know about Norman Rockwell and his art, or about  other artists or artworks represented in the exhibition?
  1. As a follow up activity in the classroom, invite students to create their own version of one of the Four Freedoms, or create a new piece that reflects their idea of freedom for our times.


  • Students will participate in group discussions (informal checks of understanding through questions).
  • Students will apply information gained through this experience to their own artwork.
  • Students will self-evaluate their understanding of the subject by completing the Exit Task.


This curriculum meets the standards listed below. Look for more details on these standards please visit: ELA and Math StandardsSocial Studies Standards, Visual Arts Standards.

Identify how art is used to inform or change beliefs, values, or behaviors of an individual or society.
Analyze how art reflects changing times, traditions, resources, and cultural uses.
Analyze how response to art is influenced by understanding the time and place in which it was created, the available resources, and cultural uses.
Distinguish different ways art is used to represent, establish, reinforce, and reflect group identity.
Analyze similarities and differences associated with preserving and presenting two-dimensional, three-dimensional, and digital artwork.
Compare and contrast how technologies have changed the waynartwork is preserved, presented, and experienced.
Develop and apply criteria for evaluating a collection of artwork for presentation.
Cite evidence about how an exhibit in a museum or other venue presents ideas and provides information about a specific concept or topic.
Identify and analyze cultural associations suggested by visual imagery.
Analyze ways that visual components and cultural associations suggested by images influence ideas, emotions and actions.
Analyze multiple ways that images influence specific audiences.
Compare and contrast contexts and media in which viewers encounter images that influence ideasm emotions, and actions.