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Kent with “On Earth, Peace” mural, 1944
Kent with “On Earth, Peace” mural, 1944

    During the 1930s and 1940s, Kent created several major murals and his designs for the 1939 Christmas Seals campaign were used on billboards, stamps, and posters. When a woman said of his art deco angel, “That doesn’t look like an angel to me,” Kent replied, “Madam, have you seen one?”

    Kent was also chosen by the U.S. Treasury Department to create a pair of panels for the Federal Post office in Washington, D.C. His assigned topic was “Mail Service in the Arctic and Tropic Territories of the U.S.”

    Sympathetic to agitators seeking to end American dominance in Puerto Rico, Kent planted a cryptic message in a letter featured in the mural depicting mail service to Puerto Rico. As though sent from the Eskimos in the arctic mural, it translated:

    “To the people of Puerto Rico, our friends, go ahead, let us change chiefs. That alone can make us equal and free.”

    The once controversial panels are still on display in what is now the Ariel Rios Federal Building.

    Kent was also commissioned to create a 15-by-50 foot mural for General Electric’s pavilion at the 1939 World’s Fair. “Man’s Liberation Through Electricity” featured a representation of the dark ages of superstition, pseudoscience, and demonology on the left. To the right was an enormous turbine generator manned by a crew of jubilant modern workers. In the center were liberated toilers discarding their outworn tools and rushing, rejoicing, toward the towering city of the future.

    With hope that the mural would become a lasting legacy, Kent urged officials at GE to install it in one of the company’s office buildings. But, the mural was put into storage and never displayed again. It gradually succumbed to the ravages of time.

    A mural for the House Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce was completed in 1944. “On Earth, Peace” featured fertile farmlands, bucolic villages, and thriving cities tied together by highway, waterway, railway, and air. Sally, Kent’s third wife, served as the model for two of the winged figures that symbolize the four freedoms.
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Thumbnail ImagePostal Service to Alaska: Post Office Mural Study, 1935
oil on photo paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.104.3]
Thumbnail ImageZodiac Mural Study, c.1935
gouache
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.177]
Thumbnail ImageMural for General Electric Pavilion at 1939 World's Fair, 1939
photo of pencil drawing
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.155]
Thumbnail ImageOn Earth, Peace Mural Study: Sally Kent, 1943
pencil on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.103]
Thumbnail ImageOn Earth, Peace Mural Study, 1944
pencil on paper
Bequest of Sally Kent Gorton
[P52000.101.1]
Thumbnail ImageMural Study for On Earth, Peace: Sally, 1945-49
oil
Gift of Sally Kent Gorton
[X1978.1.10]
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