Rockwell Kent

Rockwell Kent

Rockwell Kent (June 21, 1882–March 13 1971) was an American painter, printmaker, illustrator, and writer.


Rockwell Kent was born in Tarrytown, New York, the same year as fellow American artists George Bellows and Edward Hopper. Kent lived much of his early life in and around New York City, and moved in his mid-40s to an Adirondack farmstead that he called "Asgaard" where he lived and painted until his death. Kent studied with the influential painters and theorists of his day, including Arthur Wesley Dow, William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, Abbott Thayer, and Kenneth Hayes Miller. An undergraduate background in architecture at Columbia University enabled Kent to work occasionally in the 1900s and 1910s as a draftsman and carpenter.

Kent's early paintings of Mount Monadnock and New Hampshire were first shown at the Society of American Artists in New York in 1904. In 1905 he ventured to Monhegan Island, Maine, where he based himself for the next five years. His first series of paintings of Monhegan were shown in 1907 at Clausen Galleries in New York to wide critical acclaim, and they form the foundation of his lasting reputation as an early modernist. In 1918-19 Kent and his eldest son ventured to Alaska where he painted and wrote "Wilderness" (1920), his first of several adventure memoirs. Upon his return, George Palmer Putnam and others formed a corporation ("Rockwell Kent, Inc.") which supported the artist in his new Vermont homestead where he completed his paintings from Alaska. A transcendentalist and mystic, Kent painted remote and austere lands, including Newfoundland (1914-15), Tierra del Fuego (1922-23), and Greenland (1929; 1931-32; 1934-35).

Approached in 1926 by publisher R. R. Donnelley to produce an illustrated edition of Richard Henry Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast", Kent suggested "Moby-Dick" instead. Published in 1930 by the Lakeside Press of Chicago, the three-volume limited edition filled with Kent's pen-and-ink drawings and title-page copper engravings sold out immediately; Random House produced a trade edition which was also immensely popular. A previously obscure book, "Moby-Dick" had been rediscovered by critics in the early 1920s. The success of the Rockwell Kent illustrated edition was a factor in its becoming recognized as the classic it is today.

Little known is Kent's talent as a jazz age humorist. As the gifted pen-and-ink draftsman "Hogarth, Jr.", Kent created a wealth of whimsical and irreverent drawings published by "Vanity Fair", "Harper's Weekly", and the original "Life". In 1939, Kent was approached by Vernon Kilns to create designs for china pitchers, plates, and other dishes.

Raymond Moore, founder and impresario of the Cape Playhouse and Cinema in Dennis MA, contracted with Rockwell Kent for the design of murals for the cinema, but the work of transferring and painting the designs on the 6,400 square foot span was done by Kent's collaborator Jo Mielziner (1901-1976) and a crew of stage set painters from New York City.  The reason given for Rockwell Kent's not painting and overseeing the work himself, is that he didn't want to visit Massachusetts after the Sacco and Vanzetti execution of 1927. However, he did go to Dennis in June of '30 and spent three days on the scaffolding, making suggestions and corrections. The signatures of both Kent and Mielziner appear on opposite walls of the cinema.

As World War II approached, Kent shifted his priorities, becoming increasingly active in progressive politics. In 1938 the U.S. Post Office asked him to paint a mural in their headquarters in Washington, DC; Kent included (in Inuit dialect and in tiny letters) a polemical statement in the painting, which caused some consternation [ "Current Biography 1942", pp447-49; The mural was of a mailman delivering letters to Puerto Ricans, and on one of the letters (from Alaska) was the message . For the record, the statement was "Puerto-Ricomiunun ilapticnum! Ke ha chimmeulakut engayscaacut. Amna ketchimmi attunim chiuli waptictun itticleoraatigut!", which translated to "To the people of Puerto Rico, our friends! Go ahead. Let us change chiefs. That alone can make us free!" Though the press coverage generated consternation as well as amusement, the mural could not be altered until after Kent was issued a government check for his $3,000 fee, after which that part of the mural was painted over. ] . In 1939, he joined the Harlem Lodge of the International Workers Order (IWO), a socialist fraternal organization. A lithograph by Kent became the organization's logo in 1940, and, from 1944 to 1953, he served as the organization's President.

As a consequence of his growing political reputation and the rise of abstract expressionism, Kent's reputation in the United States declined in the 1950s and 1960s, and he became, along with hundreds of other prominent intellectuals and creative artists, a target of those in league with Joseph McCarthy. In 1960 Kent donated several hundred paintings and drawings to the Soviet peoples and became an honorary member of the Soviet Academy of Fine Arts; Kent was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1967. (Although many believe that Kent donated the prize money to the people of North Vietnam, an interview with Kent's wife Sally that appears in a 2006 documentary about his life states that he donated it to the women and children of Vietnam, both North and South.)

When Kent died, The New York Times described him as "... a thoughtful, troublesome, profoundly independent, odd and kind man who made an imperishable contribution to the art of bookmaking in the United States." This cursory summing-up of an American life has been superseded by richer, more accurate accounts of the scope of the artist's influential life as a painter and writer. Reappraisals of the artist's life and work have been mounted, most recently by the Portland (Maine) Museum of Art in the summer of 2005. Among the many notes of increased recognition is the appearance of one of Kent's woodcut illustrations from Moby Dick on a U.S. postage stamp, part of the 2001 commemorative panel celebrating American illustrators, including Maxfield Parrish, Frederic Remington, and Norman Rockwell.

Recently, prominent American and Canadian writers have found much gold to mine in Kent's improbable life of adventure and accomplishment. The year he spent in Newfoundland, for example, is fictionally (and very loosely) recalled by Canadian writer Michael Winter in "The Big Why," his 2004 Winterset Award-winning novel. And certain qualities of the protagonist of Russell Banks's 2008 novel "The Reserve" are inspired by aspects of Kent's complex personality.


Written and illustrated by Rockwell Kent

Kent was a prolific writer. His more important works include:
* "Voyaging Southwards from the Strait of Magellan" — About Kent's travels in Tierra del Fuego.
* "" — About the year Kent and his young son spent living on Fox Island in Resurrection Bay, Alaska.
* "N by E" — About Kent's voyage (and shipwreck) from New York to Greenland.
* "Salamina" — About the year Kent spent living and working in Igdlorssuit, Greenland.
* "It's Me, O Lord" — The Autobiography of Rockwell Kent (1955)
* "This is My Own" — An autobiographical account of Kent's early years in the Adirondacks with his second wife Frances. (1940)

Illustrated by Rockwell Kent

*"Beowulf" - illustrated by Kent, 1932 []
* "City Child" — poetry by Selma Robinson
* "The Mountains Wait" — dust jacket only
* "Seed" — novel by Charles Norris — dust jacket only
* "Zest" — novel by Charles Norris — dust jacket only
* "Candy" — novel
* "Moby-Dick" — novel by Herman Melville
* "Leaves of Grass" — poetry by Walt Whitman
* "Erewhon" — novel by Samuel Butler
* "Candide" — novel by Voltaire
* "The Bridge of San Luis Rey" — novel by Thornton Wilder
* "Faust" — by Goethe
* "Paul Bunyan" — novel by Esther Shephard
* "A Treasury of Sea Stories" — anthology edited by Gordon C. Aymar
* "Gisli's Saga" — Mediaeval Icelandic saga
* "Autumn Leaves" — social commentary by P W Litchfield
* "Canterbury Tales"
* "The Decameron" — novel by Giovanni Boccaccio
* The Complete Works of Shakespeare

Murals by or designed by Rockwell Kent

* The Cape Cinema Murals, Dennis, MA (1930), designed by Rockwell Kent, executed by Jo Mielziner (1901-1976) and a crew of stage set painters from New York City, finished by Kent
* United States Post Office Department Headquarters, Washington DC (1938)



*"Contemporary Authors Online," Gale, 2002.
*"World Authors 1900–1950". The H. W. Wilson Company, 1996.

Further reading

* Wien, Jake Milgram, "Rockwell Kent: The Mythic and the Modern", Hudson Hills Press, 2005.
* Traxel, David, "An American Saga: The Life and Times of Rockwell Kent", New York: Harper & Row, 1980.
* Johnson, Fridolf. "Rockwell Kent: An Anthology of His Works" New York: Alfred K. Knopf, 1982.
* Johnson, Fridolf. "The Illustrations of Rockwell Kent: 231 examples from Books, Magazines, and Advertising Art." New York: Dover Publications, 1976
* Roberts, Don. "Rockwell Kent: The Art of the Bookplate." San Francisco: Fair Oaks Press, 2003.
* Priess, David. "Rockwell Kent" American Artist 36, no. 364 (November 1972)
* Jones, Dan Burne. "The Prints of Rockwell Kent: A Catalogue Raisonné." Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1975.
* Arens, Egmont. "Rockwell Kent-Illustrator" The Book Collector's Packet. 1.9 (1932)

External links

* [ Rockwell Kent Illustrations for "Moby Dick']
* [ Rockwell Kent Gallery and Collection at Plattsburgh State University of New York]
* [ Brief online biography]
* [ Adirondack Vistas in the Artist's Eye and in the Visitor's]
* [ Rockwell Kent and the Cape Cinema Mural by Lucy Vivante in "The Berkshire Review for the Arts," July 5, 2008]
* [ Rockwell Kent Artwork Examples on AskART.]
* [ Photos of the Random House edition of Moby Dick Illustrated by Rockwell Kent]
* [ Rockwell Kent papers at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art]
* [ Spanish Civil War: Bombs Away] - Rockwell Kent at the Art and Social Issues in American Culture website

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  • Rockwell Kent — photographié par Carl Van Vechten, 1933 Rockwell Kent (21 juin 1882 – 13 mars 1971) était un auteur, artiste et illustrateur américain né à Tarrytown, dans l État de New York. Références Dans Éloge des voyages insensés …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Rockwell Kent — Rockwell Kent, Fotograf: Carl Van Vechten, 1933 Rockwell Kent (* 21. Juni 1882 in Tarrytown, New York; † 13. März 1971 in Plattsburgh, New York) war ein US amerikanischer Maler und Grafiker. Nach dem Studium der Architektur wandte er sich de …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Rockwell Kent — noun United States painter noted for his woodcuts (1882 1971) • Syn: ↑Kent • Instance Hypernyms: ↑painter …   Useful english dictionary

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  • Kent Curtis — Infobox Writer name = Kent Curtis imagesize = 200px caption = Kent Curtis pseudonym = birthdate = Birth date|1890|10|10 birthplace = Wichita, Kansas, United States deathdate = Death date and age|1957|12|24|1890|10|10 deathplace = Ft. Myers,… …   Wikipedia

  • Kent, Rockwell — (21 jun. 1882, Tarrytown Heights, N.Y., EE.UU.–13 mar. 1971, Plattsburgh, N.Y.). Pintor e ilustrador estadounidense. Estudió arquitectura en la Universidad de Columbia, pero después prefirió estudiar pintura con William Merritt Chase y Robert… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Kent — /kent/, n. 1. James, 1763 1847, U.S. jurist. 2. Rockwell /rok wel , weuhl/, 1882 1971, U.S. illustrator and painter. 3. William, 1685 1748, English painter, architect, and landscape gardener. 4. a county in SE England. 1,445,400; 1442 sq. mi.… …   Universalium