Rockwell Kent’s “Egypt”: Shadow and Light in Vermont

Autumn, 1923-27, Rockwell Kent 
(1882-1971) Oil on canvas, 34” x 44” Private Collection
Autumn, 1923-27 Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) Oil on canvas, 34” x 44” Private Collection

Rockwell Kent’s “Egypt”: Shadow and Light in Vermont, on view at the Bennington Museum, June 9 through October 30, 2012, is the first ever exhibition to focus on Rockwell Kent’s life and work during his years in Vermont, 1919-1925. Kent purchased a hill farm called “Egypt” on the slopes of Red Mountain in Arlington, Vermont, 20 miles north of Bennington, in the spring of 1919, on the heels of his trip to Alaska.

Concentrating on the years Kent and his family spent there, the exhibit draws attention to a time in his career when he solidified his reputation as one of the premier American artists of his time. Despite the avalanche of scholarly attention Kent received during the past fifteen years, the museum’s exhibition and its accompanying catalogue is the first comprehensive documentation of Kent’s life and work in Vermont.

Including many major, rarely seen paintings from the artist’s time in Vermont, as well as dozens of prints and drawings, this exhibition highlights a little-known aspect of the artist’s work. During his time in Vermont the artist was a transcendentalist and a mystic, a spiritual descendant of William Blake, Walt Whitman and Friedrich Nietzsche. A close look at the paintings, drawings, and prints that Kent created during this period reveals, sometimes simultaneously, both the shadowy recesses and light-filled aspects of humanity. In “Egypt” Kent was able to create a body of work that conveys the full spectrum of human emotion, from anguish to ecstasy. A focused examination of the artist’s time in Vermont reveals a complex, psychologically probing body of work that indicates an artist who found much inspiration in both the awe-inspiring physical landscape that surrounded him at “Egypt” and in his own internal musings on life, death, and man’s place in the world.

The Bennington Museum, located at 75 Main Street (Route 9), Bennington has the largest public collection of Grandma Moses paintings in the world as well as the largest collection of 19th century Bennington pottery. In the other 7 galleries, the museum presents a 1924 Wasp Touring Car, one of only twenty produced, military artifacts, one of the earliest ‘stars and stripes’ in existence, fine and decorative arts and more. The museum is just a short ride from Manchester, Williamstown, and eastern New York, and is open every day July through October. Regular admission is $10 for adults, $9 for seniors and students over 18. Admission is never charged for younger students or to visit the museum shop and café. Visit the museum’s website or call 802-447-1571 for more information.

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