"Rockwell Kent's Forgotten Landscapes" presents 47 full-color, full-page paintings which he gave to Russia in 1960, and which have not been seen in the U.S. since. This treasure trove of his "forgotten" paintings was reproduced by Scott R. Ferris and Ellen Pearce in a 96-page coffee-table format.
By their direct simplicity, these paintings may startle viewers, especially those who revel in the nuances of paintings by impressionists, for Kent's pictures have sharp lines, bright colors, and deep shadows, and show the use of artistic license here and there. Edward Hopper's "houses" are done in a somewhat similar style. Kent's painting locales included the Adirondacks (his home), Greenland, Maine (Monhegan), Tierra del Fuego, Alaska and Ireland.
After studying the collection this reviewer emerged convinced that he has a better grasp of North Greenland, where the sun wheels around 360 degrees while hanging just above the horizon during summer months and casting a sort of perpetual evening light and long shadows. Kent's paintings often show no human or animal life, but there is enough inclusion of Indian activities as to cause cultural anthropologists to consider his paintings to be rare records of this primitive, by-gone lifestyle. Kent's portrait of Mount Assiniboine in the Canadian Rockies was so startling in color and composition as to make this reviewer actually gasp in wonder at its beauty.
In addition to the big color plates, the authors have included 36 smaller black & white pictures which amplify 15 pages of scholarly text by Ferris, in which he discusses the genealogies of selected pictures and their believed locations abroad. The text is backed by 95 footnotes, many of which are interesting in their own right.
Appendix I lists "variant titles to some of Kent's basic scenes." Appendix II organizes his "non-paintings" into engravings, lithographs, books and brochures, manuscripts and reproductions and portfolios -- all wonderful guides to other Kent works. Then there follow a Bibliography and Index.
Ellen Pearce's major contribution is a seven-page essay on the life and political entanglements of Rockwell Kent, which climaxed in his being summoned before Sen. Joseph McCarthy's Committee on Government Operations. Further, the State Department refused to renew his travel visa until the Supreme Court overturned its ruling. All this disheartened and embittered Kent and predisposed him to bequeath his "great collection" to the Russians, who had received an earlier show of his with warmth and enthusiasm.
For those who heretofore have known Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) only by his book and magazine illustrations, this is a grand introduction to his work in oils. One hopes another book someday will publish his collected works so that Americans can even better appreciate a great native-born but forgotten artist.