November 21, 2022

SUNY Empire Faculty Member Reimagines Famous Thanksgiving Painting

Assistant Professor and Artist Raul Manzano unveils artwork inspired by Norman Rockwell

Raul with his painting
Raul Manzano with his painting "Welcome All!"

Raul Manzano, assistant professor and award-winning artist, has unveiled his Thanksgiving-themed painting “Welcome All!” Manzano’s work is inspired by Norman Rockwell’s painting, “Freedom from Want,” which was published in The Saturday Evening Post in 1943. Though Rockwell’s artwork was the inspiration for Manzano’s painting, Manzano wanted to send a different message about celebrating Thanksgiving in modern times.

“This particular painting has been in my mind for a while,” says the artist. “With all the things happening in the world, with global discrimination against minority groups and the hate that has been created among various groups, I ask the question, ‘Why can’t we live together and respect each other regardless of our differences?’ And the idea grew from there.”

Manzano’s vision was to create a painting that celebrates Thanksgiving and brings people from all cultures together. Rockwell’s employer, The Saturday Evening Post, did not permit him to include non-whites in his painting or illustrations in important roles. Manzano took the opportunity to fully reimagine the original painting and create an image of inclusivity with global representation.

He put his own spin on the Thanksgiving dinner guests, by including world leaders and diverse individuals, all enjoying an array of cultural dishes. After touring the United Nations Secretariat Building last summer, he also incorporated the United Nations symbol in the tablecloth. “The idea is to bring everyone together to celebrate and welcome everyone,” he says. “No religion or political boundaries, just humanity.”

Known for integrating the Statue of Liberty into his artwork, Manzano used the iconic landmark to represent the head of the family, serving dinner with New York City in the background. He even included a self-portrait of himself, to pay homage to Rockwell’s cameo in the original painting, but also to highlight the COVID-19 pandemic when he created the painting.

Manzano hopes the painting will resonate with audiences to create harmony among people to be together and respectful of each other,” “Unfortunately, that is something people are losing more and more,” he says.