One of America’s finest painters, Rockwell Kent pursued a life of art and culture. Also an illustrator, designer, and printmaker, he was equally well known for his intellectual writings, far-reaching travel, support of artists’ issues, and political activism. To Kent, painting was a highly philosophical exercise for individual expression. His clear, simplified landscapes of the mid-twentieth century stand as a figural counterpoint to abstractionism.
Born in Tarrytown, New York, Kent, at the age of thirteen, accompanied his aunt, a watercolorist and ceramic painter, on a tour of Europe where he first studied the old masters. This experience, coupled with his teenaged studies with William Merritt Chase in Shinnecock Hills, inspired the young man to become an artist. After three years on scholarship at the Columbia University School of Architecture, he withdrew to study at the New York School of Art, Chase’s winter center. There, he became a friend and colleague to his teacher Robert Henri, as well as to fellow students of the Ashcan School, George Bellows and Edward Hopper. As a mature artist, Kent loved the outdoors and sought to interpret nature through landscape painting. He traveled extensively to paint, spending time in Monhegan Island, Maine and Europe, and visiting remote locales in Alaska, Newfoundland, Greenland, and Tierra del Fuego.
America, Land of Our Fathers was painted during the period when Senator Joseph McCarthy, suspicious of Kent’s socialist leanings, had summoned the artist to trial. Kent portrays a quiet farmhouse nestled in the undulating Virginia hills south of Charlottesville, the light of day radiating. The bucolic scene alludes to eighteenth century Jeffersonian ideals of pride, patriotism, and freedom. The luminous palette, contrasting colors, and tight, spare composition are characteristic of the artist’s work of the 1950s.
Kent’s work is represented in the country’s leading museums including the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Whitney Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, Minneapolis Museum of Art, and Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. The Johnson Collection, Spartanburg, South Carolina.