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Rockwell Kent and Robert Henri, c.1902
Rockwell Kent and Robert Henri
(first row, second and third from right), c.1902

   Among Kent’s Teachers at the New York School of Art was Robert Henri, the charismatic leader of what is now known as “The Ashcan School.” Henri influenced a generation of American artists, urging them to consider grittier, seamier subject matter. Kent’s classmates included George Bellows and Edward Hopper.
    Robert Henri’s greatest gift to Rockwell Kent was his suggestion that the young artist go to Monhegan Island, Maine, to paint. When Kent arrived on Monhegan in June 1905, the island’s high cliffs and pounding surf inspired him immediately. “It was enough to start me off to such feverish activity in painting as I had never known.”
    In the spring of 1907, Kent unveiled fourteen canvasses at Clausen Galleries in New York. Fellow painter John Sloan wrote in his diary:
“These pictures are of immense Rocks and Sea in fair weather and in winter. Splendid big thoughts, some like prayers to God. I enjoyed them to the utmost and accept them as great. I’d like to buy some of them.”
But neither Sloan, nor anyone else purchased any paintings. Kent returned to Monhegan richer in reputation but $100 in debt.
    Prior to his island odyssey, Kent had joined the Socialist Party. His time spent among Monhegan’s working class crystallized his decision:
“I envied them their workers’ human dignity. Those social and political convictions, which had hereto existed as figments in my mind and heart, began to acquire substance.”
Soon Kent joined the fray. He labored first as a well driller, swinging an eight-pound sledge. He served as a substitute lighthouse keeper, then a longshoreman, and at last, a lobsterman.
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Thumbnail ImageGreeting Card: Kent Family, 1910
pencil and ink on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.192]
Thumbnail ImageBirth Announcement, 1911
ink on scratchboard
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.13]
Thumbnail ImageBirth Announcement, c.1911
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.6]
Thumbnail ImageAve Maria, c.1914
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.12]
Thumbnail ImageAve Maria, c.1914
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.2]
Thumbnail ImageAve Maria, c.1914
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.1]
Thumbnail ImageGreeting from Miss Josephine Holgate, 1914
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.8]
Thumbnail ImageGreeting Card: A Merry Christmas to You and Eternal Youth, c.1915
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.14]
Thumbnail ImageA Christmas Greeting from Mrs. Rockwell Kent, 1915
ink on paper mounted on board
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.68]
Thumbnail ImageFlying Angel, c.1916
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.5]
Thumbnail ImageOn Earth Peace, n.d.
linecut on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.174.9]
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