Plattsburgh State Art Museum

State University of New York

Plattsburgh, NY

518-564-2288, 518-564-2813


Commercialism and Idealism: The Advertising Art of Rockwell Kent

June 26, 1999 to December 18, 2000


For much of the nineteenth century, major American artists made a sizable part of their living working at various commercial adaptations of their printing/drawing style--Winslow Homer, Harpers, the Ash Can School, to name a few.

Eventually, as we move into the aestheticism of the 20th century, commercial and fine art became incompatible in the same artist and with the exception of the back lash of pop art, the two were separate forms of expression. As he was probably the last of the great artist/adventurers, so was Rockwell Kent with the exception of Ben Shahn probably the last of the painter, illustrator - commercial practitioners. Kent moved easily from the Philadelphia Museum to the offices of Random House from the Weyhe & Knoedler galleries to job conferences with American Export Lines and Vanity Fair --and to put a zinger in the midst of this--to Socialist political committees. (left: special ad for Rolls Royce; right: ad for American Export Lines)

Although Kent shied a little from too close identification of all of these roles in a single persona--during his Hogarth Jr. phase, finally the Rockwell Kent style with variations of seriousness and finish became a single recognizable signature when even his pen or brush touched a surface.

This exhibition deals totally with Kent's commercial advertising art where ever his work was put at the service of a client with the purpose of selling a product or a position. From Vanity Fair's, Marcus Jewelers to the Spanish Civil War relief appeals, the same clear visually understandable message comes across. Over one hundred and twenty illustrations are included.The Museum will give a comprehensive picture of the length and breadth of this aspect of Kent's work. Although the artist's book illustrations were certainly part of a commercial effort, the organizers of the exhibit will leave this special category for another exhibition. (left: Power..For the Wheels of Progress!, Bituminous Coal Institute)

The exhibition opened in the Plattsburgh Art Museum's Burke Gallery on June 26, 1999. In September, 1999 it was completely incorporated into the Kent Gallery and will be shown until December 18, 2000.

The Plattsburgh State Art Museum is located at 101 Broad Street, Plattsburg, NY, 12901. (information as of 6/00)

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

For further biographical information on selected artists cited above please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

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