Eskimo Mother and Child, 1937, ink on paper 100 Drawings by Rockwell Kent

By Cecilia Esposito
ďA factor of great importance in determining the character of my drawings was my recognition of the fact that, intended for reproduction, the so-called Ďoriginalí drawing was but a preliminary step in the making of a printed picture. This, in line drawings, called for the utmost precision, clarity, and uniform blackness of line, to the exclusion of the uncertainty of mind and hand which is betrayed in what is properly denoted as a sketch. It called for craftsmanship.Ē

From Itís Me O Lord by Rockwell Kent
p. 424-425
Rockwell Kentís philosophy about the character of his drawings is evident in many of the works selected for this exhibition. While he would actively sketch images in thumbnail size as well as full scale, once he found the image he was looking for, he would work a drawing down to a single line that would illustrate mass, form, and emotion.

Selected from over 1,500 drawings given to the Plattsburgh State Art Museum in 2000 through the estate of Sally Kent Gorton, these drawings represent each decade and area of Kentís work. Included are book illustrations, advertisements, poster art, mural drawings, decorative arts design, life drawings, bookplates, greeting cards, and transfer drawings for prints. This collection significantly enhances the drawing collection gifted during the 70ís and 80ís, and while the number of finished drawings are limited, the preliminary sketches are significant in studying the process Kent followed when exploring an idea. They also illustrate just how close he followed an idea once he worked out the image, whether it was a preliminary sketch for the 1939 Worldís Fair General Electric Pavilion mural or an illustration for the book Salamina.

While it is difficult to date some of the drawings that seem to be from Kentís school days, or works made for family events such as the ink scratch board drawing of a stork delivering a baby and used as a birth announcement (c.1911), the earliest commercial drawings are from Architec-tonics: The Tales of Tom Thumtack, Architect, the first book Kent illustrated in 1914. Also from this early period are works by Hogarth, Jr., Kentís pseudonym.

The late 1920ís through the 1940ís were Kentís most prolific, and the majority of the works are from this period. Preliminary and finished drawings for books including Faust; Canterbury Tales; and This Is My Own; along with drawings for On Earth, Peace; the Commerce Mural; Benton & Bowels, Bituminous Coal advertising campaign; and political poster art are included from this period.

During the 1950ís and 1960ís, Kent continued painting canvases, writing and illustrating his autobiography Itís Me O Lord, Greenland Journal, and traveling. Chapter drawings and illustrations from this period are numerous and a number are included in the exhibition.

The cataloguing of this collection began in the summer of 2005 and will continue for several years. It is the goal of the Museum Studies Minor Program, managed by the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, that the students enrolled work directly with original works of art. Student interns Natsuki Takiguchi, Jane Baldwin, and Patricia Detweiler worked diligently on the cataloguing of the work in this exhibition over the past year.

Cecilia Esposito is the Museum Collections Specialist at Plattsburgh State Art Museum. She is charged with the cataloguing of the Rockwell Kent Collection and manages the rights and permissions to the work of Rockwell Kent.

Email: Cecilia Esposito

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