Lot 11
  • 11

Rockwell Kent 1882 - 1971

120,000 - 180,000 USD
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  • Rockwell Kent
  • Abandoned House, Greenland (Refuge Hut)
  • signed Rockwell Kent and dated 1932-3 (lower right); also inscribed © (lower left)
  • oil on canvas mounted on panel
  • 28 by 34 inches
  • (71.1 by 86.4 cm)


Private Collection, Los Angeles, California, 1942
By descent to the present owner


Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee Art Institute, Paintings by Rockwell Kent, December 1933-January 1934, no. 21
Toronto, Canada, The Art Gallery of Toronto; Ottawa, Canada, National Gallery, Ottawa, Exhibition of Work of Rockwell Kent, April-June 1934, illustrated p. 2
New York, Macbeth Gallery, "Greenland" And Other Subjects by Rockwell Kent, November 1934, no. 17
Washington, D.C., Gallery of Modern Masters; Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Greenland Paintings and Prints: Rockwell Kent, November 1937-January 1938 (as Refuge Hut)
New York, Wildenstein & Company; Cincinnati, Ohio, A.B. Closson, Jr. Company; Los Angeles, California, Stendahl Art Galleries, Know and Defend America: Forty Paintings of Our Country and of the Out-Posts of Our Hemisphere, February-April 1942, no. 18 (as Refuge Hut)

Catalogue Note

Rockwell Kent traveled to Greenland three times from 1929 through 1935. From July of 1931 to October of 1932, and June of 1934 through June of 1935, he lived in the small community of Igdlorssuit, on Ubekjendt Eiland (Unknown Island). Slightly northeast of the artist's home base, and across Karrat Fjord, lies the smaller island of Karrat, the island where Kent would find his "Abandoned House." It was in Greenland, and the other remote areas to which he traveled–Alaska, Tierra del Fuego–that Kent found solitude. He believed that "all solitudes, no matter how forlorn, are the only abiding-place on earth of liberty" (Rockwell Kent, Salamina, New York, 1935).

Abandoned House, Greenland represents the juncture between realism and modernism. From the pinnacle of these works one can see the ever evolving modernist tendencies that began in 19th century European art and blossomed in the 20th century, in such movements as Precisionism and Color Field painting. Here, Kent does not follow in the footsteps of his contemporaries, George Bellows and Edward Hopper on one side and Arthur Dove and Georgia O'Keeffe on the other: he strides forward on his own, equally distinct path.

Numerous critics recognized Kent's highest achievements in painting. Upon seeing Abandoned House, Greenland (and other Greenland canvases) at the Art Gallery of Toronto in 1934, Arthur Lismer wrote, "Rockwell Kent has painted canvases and water colours all having the same powerful rhythm and the rich, sombre mood of a man who takes the hills in a stride and grasps the forms of earth and sky in a powerful summary and who feels the colour and design fundamentally. He does not stop to gossip about the little things of foreground–he is too impatient for that–he strives after the high rhythms, creating order through the design of land, water and sky."

Kent's own tale of the abandoned house appears in chapter 38 of Salamina. He wrote, "… it came to my ears that there stood an untenanted house on the western end of Karrat… no sooner had I seen the cove where stood the house, and had one glimpse of its stupendous views, than it was settled in my mind to stay my time out there… The house I might not readily have found had I been there alone, so dwarfed were man-sized things… An edge of turf across a mound of snow: that was the house… It took us but a minute or two to clear away the drifted snow from around the low doorway… pass through the low turf passageway, and enter. We found ourselves inside a sort of ice cave, dimly and glamorously illuminated by the cold daylight which filtered through the snowbank at the window and through this hole… And directly under the stovepipe hole–there was no stove–was an accumulated mound of ice a foot thick at its crest" (Salamina, p. 203).