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The Art of Mort Künstler / The American Spirit / The Modern Era

Here you will find a pictorial chronicle of the drama and excitement of American History. These paintings give the viewer an insight into the tumultuous life of this young nation that mere words cannot achieve.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Historical Information

Franklin Delano Roosevelt came to the presidency at the depth of the greatest depression in American history: a crisis which seemed to threaten the very foundations of the Republic. Could the situation be saved: could the descent into poverty and misery be reversed?

A two-term governor of New York, Roosevelt was not unknown to the American people; but few of those who rejoiced in the political repudiation of the old order were prepared for the boldness, the courage, the political mastery, and the creativity he displayed. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," he said in his inaugural address; and he promptly asked Congress to give him "broad executive power such as would be given me if we were invaded by a foreign power." Congress granted his request, and Roosevelt responded with a program as bold and comprehensive as the one that Alexander Hamilton submitted to the first American Congress.

Within three months Roosevelt had pushed through an eager Congress a body of legislation designed to halt and reverse the Depression. It was, he said, not a revolution but a "New Deal" for the American People. One part of the New Deal was a program to relieve the desperate unemployment and poverty, both in the cities and on the farms. Another looked not just to immediate relief but to far-reaching and fundamental reforms that were already underway. These included a series of measures designed to save and restore the natural resources of the nation, to rescue the railroads, and to provide government support to both private and public housing and relief to the stricken cities across the land.

During his second term of office, with the support of all but two states, Congress enacted a national system of social security and health care, a charter of liberties for labor, with the first national prohibition of child labor, and a national housing program. All this looked to be the transformation of a highly individualistic corporate economy into one which took seriously those goals set forth in the Constitution itself: to establish justice and to provide for the general welfare.

The fulfillment of the promise of the New Deal was shattered by the outbreak of World War II. Elected to an unprecedented third term, Roosevelt devoted his energies to aiding the Allies as effectively as he could without actually entering into the war. Roosevelt persuaded the Congress to transfer fifty destroyers to Britain and, more importantly, to launch a vast program of "Lend-Lease" which provided supplies of all kinds essential to the safety of the Allied nations "whose survival was essential to the safety of the United States." More than any other action before Pearl Harbor, Lend-Lease made it possible for Great Britain and the Soviet Union to fight on.

In the aftermath of Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt joined the greatest military feat in history: fighting and winning a two-ocean war. Roosevelt lived to know that victory was certain, but not to witness the final consummation of his hopes. His last words before his pen dropped from lifeless hands provided a fitting epitaph to his life: "The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today. Let us move forward with strong and active faith."

Date Created: 1985

Medium: Gouache

Image Size: 14" x 12"


All illustrations by Mort Künstler. Text by Michael Aubrecht, Dee Brown, Henry Steele Commager, Rod Gragg, Mort Künstler, Edward Lengel, James McPherson, and James I. Robertson, Jr. - Copyright © 2001-2022. All Rights Reserved. No part of the contents of this web site may be reproduced or utilized in any form by any means without written consent of the artist.