Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Rockwell Kent show at the Bennington Museum

Yesterday was a lovely sunny Sunday -- warm but not too hot. Perfect weather to drive up to the Bennington Museum to see their new exhibit of the paintings and woodcuts of Rockwell Kent.

I was somewhat familiar with his woodcut stuff -- he's probably most famous for his illustrations for a 1930 edition of "Moby Dick"* -- but I don't think I''d ever seen any of his paintings.

It's almost always a nice drive up to Bennington, and this time we took the route from Brattleboro, VT over Route 9 heading west. This allowed us to stop briefly at the Vermont Deli in Brattleboro to pick up some food for lunch -- a great place with great food, and I was surprised that with all the people crowding it we were able to get in and out within minutes. Sheer luck, I guess.

The exhibit of Kent's work focused mainly on the landscape paintings he did while living in Vermont, but also featured some of his print work, both wood engravings and lithographs. His work, especially the prints, definitely has an Art Deco feel to it, but I think the paintings reminded me a lot of the art of Georgia O'Keefe, both in the color palette and the abstractions of shapes.

"Masterng Mount Equinox" c. 1920

"Transcending Death" c. 1923

"Valley of Vermont" c. 1921(?)

Regrettably, I did not write down the title of this next painting of a quarry or mine, nor was the photo I took of it and its "tombstone" (the card describing the painting) of sufficient clarity for me to garner that information from the image. But I think of all the pieces in this show, this is the one which caught my attention the most. 

       It really does hover most effectively in that unquiet space between a recognizable scene and total abstraction. -- PL

(07-28-12 Correction: This painting is NOT by Rockwell Kent, as I thought it was, but by another artist who also lived in Arlington, VT, named John Atherton. It is titled "The Ore Pit" and was painted by in 1947. Thanks to commenter "jfranklin" for the correction!)

P.S. As I did in my blog entry about the Howard Pyle show at the Norman Rockwell Museum, I have to note another "tombstone" with errors on it at the Rockwell Kent exhibit. Here it is, with the problem areas boxed in red:

As you can see, "my" should be "may", and "of drawing" very likely was meant to read "of the drawing". (And no, I am not obsessive about looking for these kinds of mistakes -- these are two that just popped out at me.) -- PL


*… which can be seen here:

… and which, weirdly, are described as "PEN, BRUSH, AND INK DRAWINGS" in the Wikipedia entry on Kent, as are many other of his book illustrations -- all of which, I am fairly certain, were wood engravings.


jfranklin said...

Thanks for pointing out the typos. I've taken care of them so they won't distract from other visitors' experience of the exhibition. Also, the abstract landscape is called "The Ore Pit" and was painted by John Atherton in 1947. Atherton was another painter/commercial artist who made Arlington, Vermont, his home in the decades after Kent's time there.

Nathan said...

Hello mister Peter Laird.

I hope you are reading your coments and that this message will reach you.
I am writing to you because i think there is something deeply new the way you invented the caracters of the turtles and the graphism you used to draw them. Maybe it s only my feeling but i think there s a true will in your way to draw to reach the eye of your reader or admirors and slide over it (like a quick diffusion). Maybe that's the point of comics to find shapes and symbols easy to diffuse in poeple's mind. But you did create your own esthetism with your own ideas on humans and things. I m not a great comics fan but i draw and i like this over human feeling which exists in some of your drawings.

Hope that was not too boring to read and than my english is ok.


Scott Ferris said...

Regarding the painting you refer to as "Mastering Mount Equinox" (referred to as "Vermont Study" in a couple of publications), I examined the painting before Mr. Wien acquired it and then again at the Bennington Museum's Rockwell Kent show, –against an actual Vermont study (one handed down through the family)–and I have little reason to believe that this painting is by Kent (1882-1971). As a Kent specialist, I have numerable "non Kent" paintings on file: works that didn't make the cut, –were filtered out of auction house, online, and gallery sales–and there are elements of "Mastering Mount Equinox" that more closely resemble these "non Kents" than the verifiable Kents. In all openness, I shared this Kent family owned painting with the staff at the Bennington, at the time of my second examination.