Retracing Rockwell Kent
During the 1930s and 40s, Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) was one of America’s most famous personalities. The foremost illustrator of his day, he created definitive drawings for literary classics such as “Moby Dick,” “Candide,” and “The Canterbury Tales.” Kent was also a prolific oil painter whose work is in the collections of the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Art Institute of Chicago. His haunting landscapes were inspired by his adventurous sojourns to Alaska, Tierra del Fuego and Greenland. He was also a best-selling author and a social activist who won a landmark passport case against the federal government that allowed all US citizens to travel, regardless of their political affiliations. The New Yorker once quipped, “That day will mark a precedent, which brings no news of Rockwell Kent.” Why was Kent’s fame so fleeting? For more than ten years, producer/writer Frederick Lewis, a professor at Ohio University, has been assembling a documentary that puts Kent’s myriad achievements in perspective. Lewis has retraced the peripatetic artist/adventurer’s many travels, shooting footage in Greenland, Newfoundland, Alaska, Ireland, and Russia. In 2002 he hired a 56-foot sailboat with crew and recreated Kent’s capricious attempt to sail to Cape Horn.
Keywords: Rockwell Kent, Illustration, Joseph McCarthy, The Armory Show, The Ash Can School, Robert Henri, Right to Travel, Russia, Greenland, Moby Dick
Associate Professor/Producer/Writer/Director, Scripps College of Communication, Ohio University
A professor in the School of Telecommunications at Ohio University in Athens, Lewis has also taught at Boston University, the Rhode Island School of Design, the National University of Kyiv-Mohyla Academy in Ukraine, and Leeds Metropolitan University in Yorkshire, UK.
He received his BA from the University of Massachusetts and his MA in creative writing from Brown University.
Lewis’ current projects in progress are documentaries on illustrator Maxfield Parrish and painter George Bellows.