Rockwell Kent


American Realist: Painter, Author, Arctic Adventurer


American realist Rockwell Kent was born in Tarrytown, New York. He first studied painting during the summer of 1900 while attending the Columbia University School of Architecture. In 1904 he enrolled in the New York School of Art. Kent’s many interests—architecture, painting, illustration, carpentry, and writing—where enhanced by the widespread, often exotic locales he visited, including Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, France, Ireland, Greenland, and the Soviet Union. Although he was grounded in the American realist tradition, Kent rarely painted urban scenes, choosing instead to focus on outdoorsmen and other solitary types—trappers, fishermen, and other such individualists—drawing inspiration from nature’s grandeur and humanity’s relationship to its monumental forces.

Kent wrote and illustrated many books, which many critics consider the best American books ever produced in terms of harmonious balance between text and pictures. Kent is as responsible as any artist for the high level of American book illustration during the first half of the 20th century. His illustrations, like his paintings, often create a mood of loneliness and a sense of man’s small resources against the might of nature. Among the authors he illustrated are Shakespeare, Chaucer, and Herman Melville. He died on March 13, 1971, at the age of 88.