Alaska. The view from Fox island in the winter

Rockwell Kent • Painting, 1919, 72×86 cm
About the artwork
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Art form: Painting
Subject and objects: Landscape
Style of art: Realism
Technique: Oil
Materials: Canvas, Plywood
Date of creation: 1919
Size: 72×86 cm
Artwork in selections: 10 selections
Audio guide

Description of the artwork «Alaska. The view from Fox island in the winter»

In 1918, Rockwell Kent undertook a trip to Alaska in the company of his eight-year-old son. It was an adventure. Back then, the artist was in desperate need. In order to pay for housing, he illustrated magazines and painted dishes, but still could not make ends meet: the Kents were in for a Spartan trip.

It was in Alaska where fortune smiled upon Rockwell: he got a job at the port as a loader and earned six dollars. This triumphant fee helped Kent to continue his journey deep into the state – he wanted to find a truly wild and secluded place and move away from civilization as far as possible.

In the end, the "Earthly Paradise" was found. For Rockwell Kent it was Rocky Island, a narrow strip of frozen ground four hundred miles from the Arctic Circle.

Father and son settled in a dilapidated hut intended for wintering goats, and it wouldn't be a big exaggeration to say that it was an indoor paddock. Kent almost rebuilt the house anew - laid the floor with his own hands, insulated the walls, patched an unsafe roof. He was helped only by an old Swede, the only neighbor for hundreds of miles around, and an eight-year-old boy. Rockwell Jr. stoically endured the challenges - he inherited his father's character and passion for travel.

On Fox Island, Rockwell Kent gave a new sound to the popular statement that painting was hard work.
Before starting this painting, for several days, he cleared the bushes, cut down the trees and sawed the wood – he needed to open a view of the bay. It's hard to believe, but this white silence was born from a crackle and a roar. Sweat and bloody calluses are hidden behind the tranquil grandeur of the northern nature, and a feverish rush - behind the icy centuries of immobility.

Kent created his View from Fox Island at the end of winter, knowing that in March he would leave Alaska. He worked like one wound up, not noticing the cold, just leaning the stretcher against some snag. "I painted feverishly, painted until the very last minutes, as if trying to embrace my beloved being once again on the eve of separation," Rockwell Kent recalled in his autobiography, "I hastened to capture on canvas and save what seemed to inevitably perish, collapse, as our hut had already begun to collapse."

Within several months, spent in Alaska, both Rockwells stuck (or, rather, froze) to Fox island and fell in love with its harsh beauty and local ascetic life. "For us, this life was exactly what it should be, solid and serene: love without hate, faith without disappointment," Kent wrote, "the perfect life for a man with work-worn hands and a lofty soul." The parting was excruciating.

Soon after the painting Alaska. View from Fox Island in Winter was finished, Rockwell Kent returned to New York. To the hustle and bustle. To the debts. To people.

Author: Andrew Zimoglyadov