Rockwell Kent

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Linocut of Two plates from the "Memoirs of Jacques Casanova de Seingalt" by Rockwell Kent.
Artist Rockwell Kent.

Painter, graphic artist, and writer. He developed a signature style of sculptural characterizations and traveled widely, illustrating his accounts of trips to Greenland, Alaska, and the Strait of Magellan. Politically active throughout his life, he received the Lenin Peace Prize — the Soviet-bloc counterpart to the Nobel Prize for Peace — in 1967.

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Born in Tarrytown, New York, Rockwell Kent attended the Columbia University School of Architecture. While there, he enrolled in night and summer classes at several art schools, studying with distinguished artists such as William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, Kenneth Hayes Miller, and Abbott Handerson Thayer. Kent worked as an architect for a little over a decade, then moved to Maine and supported himself as a manual laborer while painting. His earliest poster designs date to 1917 – 18, focusing on the choices and sacrifices that must be made during war. They were reproduced from pen, brush, and ink drawings, but he soon began working with woodcuts. Many of Kent’s posters used sophisticated symbolism to convey political messages or support social causes.

Kent’s paintings and illustrations of Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, Greenland, and other remote locations he had visited won his art great popularity. However, not all of the attention he received was positive. He was often denounced for having voted as a socialist and being affiliated with many causes espoused by communists. Despite his political problems, Kent painted, designed posters, and published six books recounting his travels and family history.

Therese Thau Heyman Posters American Style (New York and Washington, D.C.: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., in association with the National Museum of American Art, 1998)

Rockwell Kent’s obituary described him as ​“lean and sinewy” and ​“prematurely bald,” with a ​“long, square-jawed face … dominated by burning gray eyes under bushy brows.” His fiery personality matched his striking appearance. Kent started his career as a carpenter but made a name for himself with paintings of the rugged landscapes in Alaska and Greenland. He also made poetic, haunting illustrations for popular novels, including a reprint of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick. His paintings, etchings, and woodcuts reflected an adventurous spirit that led him to distant territories and to a sympathy for working people everywhere. Kent once said that ​“I am still disturbed by the fact that there are some people with a lot of money and a lot of people with no money and a few million with no jobs.” He was eventually branded a Communist during the 1950s ​“Red scare,” and yet, the art world continued to embrace Kent and his work. Major museums collected his paintings and his prints were reproduced widely during his lifetime. (Whitman, ​“Man of Many Skills: Rockwell Kent, Controversial Artist, Is Dead,” New York Times, March 14, 1971)


Rockwell Kent, though best known as an artist and illustrator, pursued many careers throughout his long life, including architect, carpenter, explorer, writer, dairy farmer, and political activist. Born in Tarrytown, New York, Kent was interested in art from a young age. These ambitions were encouraged by his aunt Jo Holgate, an accomplished ceramicist. Jo came to live with the family after Kent’s father passed away in 1887 and took him to Europe as a teenager. Kent attended the Horace Mann School in New York City, where he excelled at mechanical drawing. His family’s financial circumstances prevented him from pursuing career in the fine arts, however, and after graduating from Horace Mann in 1900, Kent decided to study architecture at Columbia University.

Before matriculating at Columbia, Kent spent the first of three consecutive summers studying painting at William Merritt Chase’s art school in Shinnecock Hills, Long Island. There he found a community of mentors and fellow students who encouraged him to pursue his interest in art. At the end of Kent’s third summer at Shinnecock, Chase offered him a full scholarship to the New York School of Art, where he was a teacher. Kent began taking night classes at the art school in addition to his architecture studies, but soon left Columbia to study painting full time. In addition to Chase, Kent took classes with Robert Henri (American, 1865 - 1929) and Kenneth Hayes Miller (American, 1876 - 1952). His classmates included the artists George Bellows (American, 1882 - 1925) and Edward Hopper (American, 1882 - 1967).

Kent spent the summer of 1903 assisting the painter Abbott Handerson Thayer (American, 1849 - 1921) at his studio in Dublin, New Hampshire—a position he secured through the recommendation of his Aunt Jo. Thayer gave the young artist time to pursue his own work, and that summer Kent painted several views of the New Hampshire landscape, including Mount Monadnock. In 1905 Kent moved from New York to Monhegan Island in Maine, home to a summer art colony, where he continued to find inspiration in the natural world. Kent soon found success exhibiting and selling his paintings in New York and in 1907 was given his first solo show at Claussen Galleries. The following year he married his first wife, Kathleen Whiting (Thayer’s niece), with whom he had five children. The couple divorced in 1924, and Kent married Frances Lee the following year. They in turn divorced after 15 years of marriage, and the artist then married Sally Johnstone.

For the next several decades, Kent lived a peripatetic lifestyle, settling in several locations in Connecticut, Maine, and New York. During this time he took a number of extended voyages to remote, often ice-filled, corners of the globe, including Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, and Greenland, to which he made three separate trips. For Kent, exploration and artistic production were twinned endeavors, and his travels to these rugged, rural locales provided inspiration for both his visual art and his writings. He developed a stark, realist landscape style in his paintings and drawings that revealed both nature’s harshness and its sublimity. Kent’s human figures, which appear sparingly in his work, often signify mythic themes, such as heroism, loneliness, and individualism. Important exhibitions of works from these travels include the Knoedler Gallery’s shows in 1919 and 1920, featuring Kent’s Alaska drawings and paintings, and the Art Institute of Chicago’s 1933 Paintings and Drawings of Greenland by Rockwell Kent. He wrote a number of illustrated memoirs about his adventures abroad, including Wilderness: A Journal of Quiet Adventure in Alaska (1920) and N by E (1930). His autobiography, It’s Me, O Lord, was published in 1955.

Around 1920 Kent took up wood engraving and quickly established himself as one of the preeminent graphic artists of his time. His striking illustrations for two editions of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick—simultaneously precise and abstract images that drew on his architect’s eye for spatial relations and his years of maritime adventures—proved extremely popular and remain some of his best-known works. Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, Kent produced a range of print media, including advertisements, bookplates, and Christmas cards. Kent’s satirical drawings, created under the pseudonym “Hogarth Jr.,” were published in popular periodicals including Vanity Fair, Harper’s Weekly, and Life. In 1937 the artist was commissioned by the Federal Public Works Administration to paint two murals for the New Post Office in Washington, DC.

By the onset of World War II, Kent had largely disengaged from the New York art world and instead focused his energies on a number of progressive political causes, including labor rights and preventing the spread of fascism in Europe. Though he never joined the communist party, his support of leftist causes made him a target of suspicion by the State Department, which revoked his passport after his first visit to Moscow in 1950 (though Kent successfully sued to have it reinstated). As his artistic reputation declined at home and his work fell out of favor, Kent found new popularity in the Soviet Union, where his works were exhibited frequently in the 1950s. In 1960 he donated 80 paintings and 800 prints and drawings to the people of the Soviet Union, and in 1967 he was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize. Kent died of a heart attack in 1971 and was buried on the grounds of Asgard, his farm in New York’s Adirondack Mountains.

Linocut of Casanova

Line Cut Print from the MEMOIRS OF CASANOVA DE SEINGALT. [London]: Aventuros Press, 1925. The private publisher, the Aventuros Press, was dedicated to printing fine limited editions of suppressed literature for its members. In 1925, the Press issued a 12 volume set of the Memoirs of Jacques Casanova De Seingalt in an edition limited to 1026 sets illustrated with 12 frontispiece drawings printed from copper line block plates, each set of books signed by Rockwell Kent.

Twenty-six of the run make up the Deluxe Edition accompanied by an extra suite of the copperplate engravings by Kent each signed in pencil and suite-numbered I-XXVI. Offered here is a print from one of those suites -- suite V (see lower left of print). I am offering 4 other prints from the same suite -- Suite V -- all available for viewing among my other listings.

This particular print depicts Casanova walking arm-in-arm with an elegantly dressed lady in a starlit garden, two other figures walking behind them, tall trees in the background. It appears they may be attending a ball or banquet.

The image measures 5-1/4 x 7-1/2 inches and is printed on a cream wove paper 8-1/2 x 9-1/2 inches. The window is 6 x 8-1/4 inches. The frame is wood stained walnut with black trim and measures 11-3/4 x 14-1/2 inches. The mat is doubled, cream over black. Framed under glass.

About Pickens Museum

Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. Seeking to attain his tribe's highest war honor by touching his enemy. This action among indigenous peoples is called "Counting Coup".
Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp by Sculptor John Free. “Osage Warrior in the Enemy Camp” is a bronze created by Osage Artist John Free. The bronze, eight feet high and twelve feet long) was enlarged to 1-1/4 life size through the efforts of John Free of the Bronze Horse foundry in Pawhuska and Hugh Pickens. Pictured (L-R): Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum and Principal Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear of the Osage Nation.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. “Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman” is a mural painted by fine artist Daniel Pickens. Daniel was born in Lima, Peru in 1974 and is currently living in Stockholm, Sweden. This mural is at our Ponca City location.
“"War Club" by Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields was recently acquired from Garth Greenam Gallery to Pickens Museum. Personal and social struggle have long been integral to the artist’s practice. After joining the Water Protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline in 2016, Fields increasingly centered the Indigenous history of hope and struggle in his work, particularly in his studio practice. In his 2017 series, Tent Metaphor Standing Rock, Field recovered tents after the infamous February 22, 2017 police raid on the protesters. The artist recombined the vivid tenting material—the mainstay of middle-class camping holidays that has become an icon of homelessness and protest movements—into traditional Indigenous patterns, anti-pipeline slogans, and into dynamic, compelling abstract compositions. As in his graffiti works, Fields blurs the line between abstraction and representation, creating stylistic compositions out of recognizable elements, and setting them against dynamic, swirling fields of color and twisting forms. The works blur the boundaries between political polemic and abstraction, between distress, resistance and hope.
Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman by Artist Daniel Pickens. Our mural "The Three Faces of the Pioneer Woman" is located in City Central at our Ponca City location.
Doctor Pickens Museum of Turquoise Jewelry and Art. Pickens Museum displays art works at NOC Tonkawa campus. Pictured (L-R): Dr. Cheryl Evans, NOC President, Hugh Pickens, Executive Director of Pickens Museum, and Sheri Snyder, NOC Vice President for Development and Community Relations. (photo by John Pickard/Northern Oklahoma College) This art is at our Tonkawa location
Native American Artist Yatika Starr Fields Completes Mural for Pickens Museum.
The World's Largest Naja. Future location of Pickens Museum on Route 60 and "U" Street West of Ponca City
Architectural Renderings of Pickens Museum.
Aerial View from East of Future location of Pickens Museum along Route 60 at "U" Street West of Ponca City
Display of Turquoise Jewelry.
Drum player by Allan Houser. This stone carving is part of the collection at Pickens Museum.
"Red Man" by Native American Artist Fritz Scholder. Pickens Museum Director Hugh Pickens on right.
Osage Warior in the Enemy Camp.
Native American Jewelry Artist Tonya Rafael with a silver frame she created to honor my wife Sr. S.J. Pickens. My wife and Tonya worked together over the years creating new jewelry art pieces. My wife had an eye for color and would often design a spectacular piece and ask Tonya to execute it for her. A skilled silversmith, Tonya would sometimes stay in our guest house, set up a workshop, and work for days at a time on a Squash Blossom, Bolo, or Bracelet my wife commissioned. The piece is a silver picture frame that Tonya cut out of thick silver plate. Around the edge of the picture frame are 95 small turquoise stones. In the top is a large spiny oyster stone in the shape of a heart. The frame contains a photo that Tonya took of my wife a few years ago. Dr. Pickens is wearing one of her favorite outfits and if you look closely you can see a special squash blossom and necklace that Tonya created for my wife. In the bottom of the frame is an inscription.
Native American Artist Jolene Bird. Jolene Bird is an accomplished artist who learned her craft from her grandfather over 20 years ago. Jolene makes her jewelry in the tradition of the Santo Domingo Pueblo in New Mexico. This is a Fender Stratocaster guitar onto which Jolene has attached pieces of Kingman and Sonoran Turquoise highlighted with Jet. The stars are in Abalone, Mother of Pearl, Pipestone, Yellow Serpentine, and Spiny Oyster. The artistry in this piece is simply breathtaking and has to be seen to be believed. Consider that this is a three dimensional mosaic, a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle if you will. Jolene told me that each individual piece of turquoise had to be cut, shaped, and ground down to fit perfectly with the other pieces. Each individual piece probably took six to eight hours to produce and there are literally hundreds of pieces covering the guitar.
American Indian by Paul Manship This piece at Pickens Museum is the only known existing copy of this sculpture.
Painting by Peruvian Artist Josue Sanchez. Photo Credit: Hugh Pickens Pickens Museum

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