Rockwell Kent at the Smithsonian Archives of American Art
For this installment of In The Stacks we sample a part of the extensive archive of Rockwell Kent’s papers that reside at the Smithsonian.
Kent traveled widely and wrote, painted and drew about his experiences. From Alaska to Greenland to Moscow, Kent and his family immersed themselves in the cultures they visited with each trip providing Kent a plethora of artistic fodder.
In 1918 it was a trip to Alaska with his son that brought us the memoir Wilderness which The New Statesman called ”easily the most remarkable book to come out of America since Leaves of Grass was published.”
Then in the mid-1920′s the publisher R. R. Donnelley asked Kent if he would have an interest in illustrating an edition of Richard Henry Dana, Jr.’s Two Years Before the Mast. Kent had a better idea, how about illustrating Moby-Dick instead.
The rest is history. It was first published in 1930 in a three-volume limited edition of 1000 copies by the Lakeside Press of Chicago, which sold out immediately, and then followed by a trade edition from Random House.
The book became and remains a high-spot of 20th century illustration.