This has been the iconic American Thanksgiving feast since the painting first appeared on the cover of The Saturday Evening Post in 1943. Painter Norman Rockwell was inspired by President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s State of the Union address in 1941 about the Four Freedoms (Freedom from Want, Freedom from Fear, Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship). 1943 was a dark time for the United States, the depths of World War II, many of its men and women in uniform and overseas away from their families, and the news relentlessly grim. It’s hard to overestimate the impact of Rockwell’s painting of abundance, not simply of food, but of love and warmth and family gatherings and rejoicing.
The painting is on view, along with its companion Freedoms, at the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge MA (our former home town). Rockwell remains the unequalled chronicler of twentieth-century America, its dreams and aspirations and longings. If you’ve ever in the area, the museum is an enthralling place to visit. Incidentally, local people (in Arlington, Vermont, and then in Stockbridge) were always the models for his paintings. See the guy in the lower right corner peeking out at us? Guess who he is? Yep, Norman Rockwell himself, present for the feast!
HAPPY THANKSGIVING, ONE AND ALL