Distant Shores: The Odyssey of Rockwell Kent by Constance Martin
square 4to. pp. 128. profusely illustrated. paperback. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
New in publisher's shrink wrap.
ISBN-10: 0520227123 / ISBN 13: 9780520227125
Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was an artist of extraordinary drive, talent, and versatility; he embraced life with exuberance. And though he was one of the most popular American illustrators of this century—so much so that The New Yorker published the ditty, "That day will mark a precedent, which brings no news of Rockwell Kent"—the controversies engendered by his socialist leanings, particularly during the McCarthy era in the 1950s, frequently overshadowed his artistic achievements. His major art was inspired by his extended stays in remote, sparsely inhabited and climatically harsh regions, most of them islands, to which his imagination was drawn for a mythic association with the mystical and marvelous.
Distant Shores captures Kent's great enthusiasm for the sea and mountains, and the relationship between nature and humanity. Produced to accompany a traveling exhibition of the artist's work, this handsome volume features eighty paintings, prints, and drawings, (more than fifty in full color) related to Kent's sojourns in the wilderness—Maine, Newfoundland, Alaska, Tierra del Fuego, and Greenland. Included in this collection are works from The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg that have been unavailable to the public since the early 1960s. Kent's dramatic black-and-white illustrations for Herman Melville's Moby Dick—the engravings that popularized his work in the United States—are also featured.
The essays describe Kent's career as a painter, printmaker, book designer, illustrator, and prolific writer. Constance Martin contextualizes the work in the exhibition by providing an informative and insightful background of Kent's life and art. Richard West contributes fascinating details about Kent's childhood and early adult life, his mastery of the print medium, and his involvement with American political thought during the McCarthy period.