Hugo Ballin, The Four Freedoms, 1942
Burbank, California City Hall
"The large figures that occupy the upper half of the painting are symbolic. The lower section of the mural depicts these freedoms put into practice in everyday experience."
All quotations are from Ballin's exposition, published in 1948,of the meaning of the mural.
"The large left hand figure holds a disc showing lips as illustrative of the spoken word. In the woman’s lap are a number of books -- the printed word in various languages. Behind the woman are the letters of the alphabet. Below, several speakers are haranguing. People are looking up at them. The woman at the desk is the next to speak. The man at the typewriter is preparing his talk. Above him there are several Legion flags."
"The second panel shows Moses deep in contemplation. He is holding the tablets of the Law. There is a crucifix with some saints at the terminals of the cross. A Pope in the regalia of office is reading from the New Testament. Three old Jews are standing at a table. One man is blowing a ram’s horn. Another is holding a Torah. Below them a clergyman is at a lectern. An American Indian is protecting a flame and in front of him on their knees are four people in prayer and supplication. A savage back of the Pope is learning to pray."
"The third figure represents Plenty holding fruits and flowers. Below her is a modern market. A woman with a basket on her arm is about to receive a bag from a grocer while a little boy on his velocipede is asking for something to eat. Behind this group a man is loading a donkey. Below the donkey a sow is rooting for food. In the background a man and woman are working at a farm machine."
"Freedom from Fear is symbolized by a strong man holding a tablet which is a symbol as opposed to instruments of war and aggression. Below him is a family partaking of their evening meal. A Negro is reading his paper. Close to him is a cat and a rooster while at his elbow a child is playing with a dog. A mother and child and a rancher occupy the right corner of the composition. In the background two figures are dismantling guns while above hover protectors of the skyways.
"It was the intention of the painter to have the entire mural serve to illustrate the spirit of democracy."
For a discussion of Norman Rockwell's Four Freedoms paintings, click the image below: