Given that the Allies were beginning to turn the tide on all fronts, in late 1942 the War Information Service and many other propaganda agencies began to shift the focus of their propaganda themes to a higher level of discourse: in addition to using some historical borrowings and religious sensitization as propaganda for the purpose of U.S. participation in the war, the use of President Roosevelt’s two pre-war doctrines to promote propaganda during the stalemate phase of the war helped boost public morale The posters reflecting Roosevelt’s themes were also used to promote the war. The authors of the posters that embodied Roosevelt’s ideas were Ralph Iligan, James Daugherty, and Norman Rockwell. Among them, Norman Rockwell created the “Four Freedoms”: to save freedom of speech, to fight for freedom from want, to save freedom of worship (religion), and to fight for freedom from fear. The theme of Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” is perfectly sublimated.
Ralph Illigan’s “Industry: The Munitions Factory of Democracy” poster
James Daugherty’s “Four Freedoms” themed poster
As a matter of fact, Rockwell had already produced a certain number of works on war themes as a painter employed by the U.S. Navy during World War I, so he clearly had a better grasp of such subjects than most painters. However, at the beginning of his work on the Four Freedoms, Rockwell also fell into a state of exhaustion. Rockwell was clearly aware of the flaws in Daugherty’s process, but after two months of work, he was disappointed to find that he could not find the perfect entry point for this subject matter. However, the peaceful life in the small town of Arlington gave Rockwell an unexpected inspiration for his work. Through a series of coincidences, Rockwell abandoned his previous idea of taking a deeper view and decided to explain the true meaning of the “Four Freedoms” from the perspective of ordinary people. After six months of work, he finally completed the design of four posters.
Rockville’s “Four Freedoms” theme poster
Of course, the release of this masterpiece did not go smoothly, as the staff of the Wartime Information Service told the artist that his work had a distinctly World War I poster style, which was not quite to the taste of the public today. The discouraged Rockwell had to simply process his work and publish it as the cover of the Saturday Evening Post magazine. Who would have thought, the posters resonated with the American public, especially “Freedom of Faith” and “Freedom from Fear”, which touched the hearts of every American.
On the other hand, the wartime press office also began to recognize the significance of the posters. With the approval of the magazine and Rockwell himself, they linked the posters to the bond sales efforts of the time and, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, conducted several bond tours across the country, raising $130 million. By the end of World War II, more than 2.5 million copies of the set had been printed by the Federal Printing Office, and if the number of reprints by various authorized agencies is included, the total print run of Rockwell’s “Four Freedoms” poster was at least 7.5 million, making it one of the most printed posters in the United States during World War II.