Rockwell Kent – American artist who celebrated the beauty of wildlife and human labor
Rockwell Kent is a famous American painter and graphic artist of the first half of the 20th century, a member of the Academy of Arts of the Soviet Union. Kent’s paintings combine realism with a romantic worldview and symbolism. The main part of his work is made up of majestic landscapes painted in the Far North and in other places far from civilization. The biography of this artist could become the basis for a book or a film, because he traveled a lot, tried many professions and lived an interesting life.
Rockwell Kent biography
Rockwell Kent was born in 1882 in the village of Terrytown, 40 km from New York. He showed a talent for drawing early, but his mother, widowed and single raising three children, was against the profession of an artist. At her insistence, Kent studied at the university for several years as an architect, only attending painting courses in the evenings. His teachers were prominent American artists of his day, the most important of whom was Robert Henri. He instilled in the student a realistic manner of writing and the desire to depict the surrounding reality as it is, without gloss.
Rockwell Kent made the first significant journey in 1905. On the advice of Robert Henry, he lived for several years on the small island of Maine, Monegan, with a population of about 100, in order to paint the harsh northern nature. The young artist was forced to provide for himself: he built houses, dug ditches and wells, participated in lobster fishing, and wrote in his free time. In 1907, Kent’s first solo exhibition took place. His landscapes were praised by critics, but collectors were in no hurry to buy.
After Monegan, the artist continued to travel. He lived on the island of Newfoundland, Alaska and Greenland, visited the Alps, Ireland and Tierra del Fuego. As a result, not only series of landscapes were born, but also illustrated books. The income was brought not so much by picturesque canvases as by book graphics. Published in 1930, the novel “Moby Dick” with illustrations by Kent was instantly sold out. Also, drawings were created for the works of William Shakespeare, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Alexander Sergeevich Pushkin.
From a young age, the artist was distinguished by an active social and political position. He fought for workers’ rights, advocated for disarmament, criticized American policies, and sympathized with the USSR. During the Cold War, this made him an outcast in his own country: Kent’s books were withdrawn from libraries, and museums and exhibition halls stopped accepting his paintings. In 1960, he donated over a hundred of his works to the Soviet Union, where he was soon appointed a member of the Academy of Arts.
Rockwell Kent died in 1971 of a heart attack. Although the event was noted in newspapers, full-fledged retrospective exhibitions were only organized in the 21st century. Throughout his life, the artist was often fond of women and was married three times. He fathered at least six children.
The most famous paintings by Rockwell Kent
The painter created an extensive gallery of seascapes and northern landscapes. Many works are characterized by the presence of people who animate the harsh nature. Here are some of Rockwell Kent’s most famous paintings:
- “Winter. Monegan Island “(1907). The landscape depicting a frosty winter day was presented to Robert Henry, who sold it to the Metropolitan Museum a few years later and gave the money to the author.
- “Alaska. View from Fox Island in Winter ”(1919). Another example of the beauty of northern nature with a mountain range and a bright blue sky contrasting with the whiteness of the snow.
- “Strait of the Admiralty. Tierra del Fuego “(1922). Stillness, numbness and secular calm characterize this landscape. The water surface without a trace of ripples fills it with a mystical mood.
- “The beginning of November. North Greenland “(1933). This painting was painted in the village of Igdlorsuit. The artist gave the landscape an elegant and solemn look due to the bright sunlight playing on the edges of the snow-white ice.
Rockwell Kent, in his youth, was considered one of the outstanding artists of America, but he did not get rich, and because of his political views, he was forgotten in old age. Currently, his work is exhibited in the best museums in the United States. Also his paintings are presented in the collections of the Hermitage and the Pushkin Museum in Russia.