Though hardly a household name today, Rockwell Kent was famous in his day as an artist, activist and world traveler. The Philadelphia Museum of Art’s new show, “Rockwell Kent – Voyager,” explores his work as a printmaker and illustrator spanning the first half of the 20th century.
The show features more than 100 works on paper, supplemented with some fascinating ephemera highlighting Kent’s methods and popularity, from a lithographic stone self-portrait to a Sherwin-Williams paint sampler and a dinner plate emblazoned with Kent’s recognizable designs.
“Focusing on his prints and drawings rather than paintings really highlights Kent’s abilities as a draftsman and the bold aesthetic that he was able to develop,” says Brooks Rich, the exhibition’s curator. “You can see his sleek lines and bold black-and-white style develop through striking images of human figures trying to figure out their place in the universe.”
That theme is consistent throughout Kent’s work, from his travel narratives capturing his treks through Alaska, Greenland and Tierra del Fuego through his renowned illustrations for classic books like “Moby-Dick” and into his advertising work. Some of the show’s most memorable images are culled from a campaign for luxury yachts which never actually depict the products themselves. “We’re used to perfume and clothing ads that promote a hip lifestyle instead of the product that they’re meant to sell,” Rich points out. “But that was something that people had really never seen before in the 1930s.”
If you go
‘Rockwell Kent -Voyager’
Through July 29
Philadelphia Museum of Art