Freedom from Want, also known as The Thanksgiving Picture or I’ll Be Home for Christmas, is the third of the Four Freedoms series of four oil paintings by American artist Norman Rockwell. The works were inspired by United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt‘s 1941 State of the Union Address, known as Four Freedoms.
The painting was created in November 1942 and published in the March 6, 1943 issue of The Saturday Evening Post. All of the people in the picture were friends and family of Rockwell in Arlington, Vermont, who were photographed individually and painted into the scene. The work depicts a group of people gathered around a dinner table for a holiday meal. Having been partially created on Thanksgiving Day to depict the celebration, it has become an iconic representation of the Thanksgiving holiday and family holiday gatherings in general.
Three generations circle the food—a nuclear family more rarely seen today, but still existing in some hearts and minds as an ideal. (If Rockwell were painting now in 2013, what might that modern American family look like racially or even in terms of sexual orientation?) From the lower right corner, in the finest Renaissance tradition of painting, a young man looks out at you directly—the classic challenge to the viewer posed by the painter and his painting. His smile asks you to join in with the wonder at the bounty set before them, but is that all it asks? After more than a decade of overseas wars draining of us blood and treasure and an economic downturn further depleting our reserves of good will and thankfulness, that young man’s smile reminds us that the Thanksgiving thanks are not necessarily for abundant protein and four kinds of vegetables. Instead, the thankfulness is for having each other and the enduring capacity of people to free one another from all kinds of want—physical, emotional, and even spiritual.