Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was an author, illustrator, painter, and printmaker whose iconic graphic style decorated posters, magazine covers, advertisements, fine art publishing ventures, deluxe illustrated books, and personal bookplates. This exhibition features 49 prints drawn from the collection of Ralf C. Nemec, the largest assemblage of Rockwell Kent prints in the world.
Kent believed that printmaking was an inherently democratic art form that made art collecting accessible to many, instead of creating scarcity with a single drawing or painting. He participated in collaborative ventures to produce limited edition prints that could be distributed through print clubs, portfolios, and other publishing ventures. He devoted himself to every design aspect of book illustration projects for accessible collector’s editions of Moby-Dick, Candide, and Beowulf, among many others. In these various projects made for different audiences, he found inventive ways of adapting his distinctive black-and-white aesthetic to create iconic scenes: lone figures illuminated against rugged landscapes or starlit seascapes.
Kent’s prints are guides to mid-20th century historical social and political events across the world. He traveled to Alaska, Greenland, Tierra del Fuego, and other distant islands. He advocated for workers in labor strikes during the 1930s. Like many artists, he used popular media to record his reactions to the Spanish Civil War and World War II. In these endeavors, he tested out the idea that printmaking was a democratic art for disseminating messages through the power of art.
Kent had numerous connections to Vermont and New York. To accompany these prints, the Fleming will show a number of Vermont printmakers who were Kent’s contemporaries—and colleagues. Their prints from the Works Progress Administration, Associated American Artists, and other artist-led endeavors how those democratic ideals of the woodcut, wood engraving, and lithographic media inspired people to participate in increasing access to art collecting.
The exhibition was organized by Landau Traveling Exhibitions of Los Angeles, CA.