Media Resource

Picturing America: Wyeth & Rockwell

Norman Rockwell 'Freedom of Speech'
Photo caption

Norman Rockwell (1894–1978), "Freedom of Speech", The Saturday Evening Post, February 20, 1943.

Both N.C. Wyeth's cover illustration for The Last of the Mohicans and Norman Rockwell's "Freedom of Speech" portray a central male figure, seen from below, in romantic, heroic light. The images are, in their own ways, idyllic. On closer inspection, however, their juxtaposition calls for more critical reflection on the ideals they represent.

View the video (7 minutes) from Picturing America.

Access the Picturing America lesson plans for Wyeth and Rockwell.

Classroom Connections

Comprehension Questions

  • Why were illustrations so important in older works of fiction?
  • How do Fenimore Cooper and Wyeth's portrayals of Uncas differ?
  • How do Rockwell's paintings make concrete the ideals FDR expressed in his "Four Freedoms" speech?
  • What purpose did Rockwell's paintings serve during World War II?

Discussion Questions

  • What effect do the poses of the painted men, and the perspective from which the viewer sees them, have?
  • N.C. Wyeth had not spent time with Native American people before creating this image. Why might he have struggled to meet indigenous people? How might this have affected the way he painted Uncas? Normal Rockwell, on the other hand, worked extensively with models and photographs of the ordinary people he painted. Is this difference in method significant? The difference in subject?
  • What function does the attentive audience play in Rockwell's painting?
  • What ideals are meant to be evoked by each painting?
  • How does Wyeth's painting reflect common stereotypes of and generalizations about Native American people?
  • What do you notice about the people at Rockwell's town meeting? Who appears in this idealized image of community democracy, and who does not?

EDSITEment Resources

Native American History

World War II and the Four Freedoms