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Fun Facts About Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Painting

Thanksgiving Day marks an extraordinary holiday when families unite and feast together. Norman Rockwell's 1942 painting "Freedom from Want" depicted this holiday celebration by depicting multigenerational families gathered around an extravagant dinner table; this image caused offense among soldiers living in war zones due to food shortages.

This painting was one of four that were commissioned to commemorate Franklin D. Roosevelt's January 1941 address on "Four Freedoms".


Rockwell made famous the image of a loving family gathering together for Thanksgiving dinner, an image most Americans will recognize from memory. Rockwell worked diligently to render an accurate depiction, with care taken over every detail--such as gleaming china or transparent water in glasses--as well as his masterful touch in creating texture through painting textures such as wrinkles in white tablecloth.

Though painted in 1943, this painting has come to symbolize what we now view as an all-American holiday. Commissioned by the Saturday Evening Post for their 1941 State of the Union Address by Franklin D. Roosevelt who spoke of "Four Freedoms", this artwork became one of four such paintings we identify with as being all American holidays.

Creative process

Rockwell used his paintings to depict an idealized version of American life. He would spend hours scrutinizing each face he painted, making sure every expression, posture and prop was exactly how he had intended them to be.

In Freedom from Want, family members gather around a Thanksgiving table with all its trimmings - although one man in particular seems confused as he appears skeptical of their celebration.

Rockwell used a photo taken of a Marine from Arlington Town Square, Vermont as the basis of this 1942 painting. Rockwell would often work from photographs to ensure each figure's pose, background and even small details of prop were accurate; even using Ivory soap on his brushes to clean them as thoroughly as possible and searching his studio floor for any remnants of brush bristles!

Wartime inspiration

Even though Rockwell wasn't serving in the military himself, he wanted to do his part for the war effort. Inspired by President Franklin D Roosevelt's State of Union address from January 1941 - in which FDR talked of four freedoms every American should possess: speech freedom, worship freedom, freedom from want and fearlessness - Rockwell painted "The Four Freedoms". As part of this undertaking.

Freedom from Want, which depicts a family enjoying Thanksgiving meal together, was created during an isolationist period in US foreign relations but has come to symbolize peaceful family celebration.

Rockwell's audience consisted of his friends and family from Arlington, Vermont; each one was photographed individually before being painted into the scene. Mrs. Thaddeus Wheaton served the turkey.


Over time, social realities in America and across the globe have undergone profound transformations. Yet some still defend painting as a reflection of emotional disposition and attitude - an approach they feel should be adopted more fully today than ever.

Rockwell first published the original painting in the Saturday Evening Post on March 6, 1943 as part of his Four Freedoms series, inspired by Franklin Roosevelt's 1941 State of the Union Address which mentioned Freedom from Fear and Want.

The painting has become a mainstay in modern popular culture, from The Simpsons and Modern Family sitcoms, to parodies that mock its exaggerated depiction of nuclear American families. Additionally, artists and brands alike have used this piece as inspiration.


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