Rockwell Kent was an American painter, printmaker, illustrator, writer, sailor, adventurer and voyager.
Rockwell Kent was born in Tarrytown, New York. Kent was of English descent. He lived much of his early life in and around New York City, where he attended the Horace Mann School. Kent studied with several influential painters and theorists of his day. He studied composition and design with Arthur Wesley Dow at the Art Students League in the fall of 1900, and he studied painting with William Merritt Chase each of the three summers between 1900 and 1902 at the Shinnecock Hills Summer School of Art, after which he entered in the fall of 1902 Robert Henri's class at the New York School of Art, which Chase had founded. During the summer of 1903, in Dublin, New Hampshire, Kent was apprenticed to painter and naturalist Abbott Handerson Thayer. An undergraduate background in architecture at Columbia University prepared Kent for occasional work in the 1900s and 1910s as an architectural renderer and carpenter. At Columbia, Kent befriended future curator Carl Zigrosser, who became his close friend, supporter, and collaborator.
At the Art Students League in the 1920s or 1930s, Kent met and befriended many artists, including Wilhelmina Weber Furlong and Thomas Furlong.
Raymond Moore, founder and impresario of the Cape Playhouse and Cinema in Dennis, Massachusetts, contracted with Rockwell Kent for the design of murals for the cinema--including an extraordinarily expansive mural for the ceiling. The work of transferring and painting the designs on the 6,400-square-foot (590 m2) span was done by Kent's collaborator Jo Mielziner (1901–1976) and a crew of stage set painters from New York City. Ostensibly staying away from the state of Massachusetts to protest the Sacco and Vanzetti executions of 1927, Kent did in fact venture to Dennis in June 1930 to spend three days on the scaffolding, making suggestions and corrections. The signatures of both Kent and Mielziner appear on opposite walls of the cinema.
he came from a relatively privileged background, Kent formed radical political views early in life, joining the Socialist Party of America in 1904. He cast his first presidential vote for Eugene Debs that year, and for the rest of his life was ready to debate socialist ideas on any occasion. His respect for the dignity of labor, acquired through personal experience and the skills of his craft, also made him a strong supporter of unions. He briefly joined the Industrial Workers of the World in 1912 and belonged at various times to unions in the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations.
When Kent died of a heart attack in 1971, the New York Times published an extensive front-page obituary that commenced: "At various (and frequently simultaneous) periods of his long life the protean Rockwell Kent was an architect, painter, illustrator, lithographer, xylographer, cartoonist, advertising artist, carpenter, dairy farmer, explorer, trade union leader and political controversialist. "He is so multiple a person as to be multifarious," Louis Untermeyer, the poet, once observed." When a 1982 anthology of Kent's work was published in 1982, a reviewer of the book for the New York Times further described Kent as " a thoughtful, troublesome, profoundly independent, odd and kind man who made an imperishable contribution to the art of bookmaking in the United States." Retrospectives of the artist's paintings and drawings have been mounted, by the Art Gallery of Newfoundland and Labrador in St. John's, Newfoundland, where the exhibition Pointed North: Rockwell Kent in Newfoundland and Labrador was curated by Caroline Stone in the summer of 2014. Other exhibitions include an exhibition in 2013 in Winona, Minnesota marking the centennial of Kent's time there; the Richard F. Brush Art Gallery and Owen D. Young Library at St. Lawrence University (Canton, New York) in the autumn of 2012; the Farnsworth Art Museum (Rockland, Maine) during the spring through autumn of 2012; the Bennington Museum in Vermont during the summer of 2012; the Philadelphia Museum of Art in the spring through summer of 2012; and the Portland Museum of Art, Maine for the major summer show of 2005 commemorating the centenary of Kent's arrival on Monhegan Island.
Books by Rockwell Kent
Wilderness: A Journal Of Quiet Adventure In Alaska
The illustrator and author Rockwell Kent (1882-1971)wrote and illustrated this description of a trip to Alaska with his eldest son. Though an audiobook listener cannot, of course, see Kent's illustrations, the artist's eye is evident throughout the t...