We are grateful to Scott R. Ferris and Richard V. West for preparing the following essay:
On April 19, 1911 Rockwell and Kathleen Whiting Kent’s daughter, Kathleen, was born prematurely. With the frail baby and weakened mother both in need of medical attention, Kent sought financial assistance from the art dealer, William Macbeth. Macbeth, who had handled the artist’s work, was then storing some of his paintings. Macbeth offered $500: The artist, in turn, permitted Macbeth to select what he considered to be the financial equivalent. To Kent’s surprise he selected 13 paintings, including many of which were his finest works–among them Afternoon on the Sea (Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, California), Toiling on the Sea (New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut), Road Breaking and Burial of a Young Man (both, Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C.) and this painting, Snow Squalls.
Macbeth Gallery acknowledged years later–on June 2, 1930–that they sold many of these paintings to another of Kent’s dealers, Charles Daniel.
In a March 25, 1953 letter to Kent, Eleanor Wierum Hall wrote: “sometime during the 1920s my father, the late Otto Wierum, bought a large landscape of yours, Snow Squalls in the Berkshires, painted from the back of his house in Berkshire [Massachusetts], looking southeast across the snow covered fields and valleys, to the hills beyond.” Kent responded, acknowledging that he and Kathleen had lived with the Wierums’ shortly after they were married.
The landscape depicted in Snow Squalls, around the Wierum and Whiting homes, is located in the vicinity of Mount Greylock, Massachusetts–near where Herman Melville wrote Moby-Dick, which Kent illustrated, to great acclaim, in 1930. Kent recalled the winter scene in his autobiography, It’s Me O Lord, as such: “…Lovely as I was to come to know that landscape to be… in winter, naked, stark, and as though carved in marble. So loving it, loving the glare of sunlight on the snow, loving the blue shadows, loving the forms that cast them and the deeps of space their blue reflected, loving that world in sunshine and under clouds, loving all the world and life and Kathleen, I painted" (It’s Me O Lord, New York, 1955, p. 186).
Other works from the artist's 1909 series dedicated to the Berkshires include Berkshire Winter (The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), Snow Fields (Winter in the Berkshires) (Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.), and Berkshire Hills (Williams College Museum of Art, Williamstown, Massachusetts).