Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Norman Rockwell's Thanksgiving Dilemma

The year was 1943. The U. S. was in the throes of WWII. GIs were fighting in both the Pacific and Europe. At home, folks were experiencing scarcity. Sugar, coffee, and even gasoline were being rationed. In this environment, Norman Rockwell was commissioned to illustrate the Thanksgiving issue for the Saturday Evening Post. Thus was Rockwell's dilemma. What to do?

Rockwell knew that with the complete mobilization of the nation and the scarcities created by the war, it would be difficult to show a table laden with food. He thought of the soldiers slogging through winter in Europe or humid, rainy jungles in the Pacific. What would they think of such an image?

He decided on a composition showing what it meant to have a warm and secure life. To that end, he titled his illustration, "Freedom from Want." That was genius. It told those that were fighting and the people back home who supported them, that they were fighting for a safety of the American homeland.

Rockwell personalized the composition by placing the viewer at the table. He emphasized the folks (including the viewer) in conversation and avoided a food-laden table. Soldiers who were so far from home could place themselves in the scene. In fact, all Americans could place themselves in that the painting. No wonder it became an icon of Thanksgiving in the U. S.

As you look at the composition, is there anything else you notice as to how Rockwell solved his dilemma? What are the feelings that you have when you look at the painting?

Have a Happy Thanksgiving. R.


  1. Great story, thanks for sharing it

  2. I grew up with that picture. I think it's an icon because it's the idealized scene of people gathered together in a secure and peaceful way.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you, too! Meredith

  3. My Dad was in the Pacific during WWII and my Mom spoke of the scarcity. Your blog this week brought it all back. Thanks! Missy

  4. I remember that copy of the Saturday Evening Post. I was 8 years old then. Makes me well up remembering. Thanks. Have a good Thanksgiving. MAR

  5. The painting gives the feeling of comfort and joy. It's nice that he included his audience in his scene.


  6. Very interesting. Have a delicious Thanksgiving filled with fun and love. Peggy

  7. Being French, I wonder, "Where is the wine?" and "Is she the wife or the maid?" Laurence