• Christies auction house James Christie logo

    Sale 12165

    American Art

    22 November 2016, New York, Rockefeller Plaza

  • Lot 6

    Rockwell Kent (1882-1971)

    Iceberg; Sledge Dogs, Greenland

    Price Realised  

    Estimate

    Rockwell Kent (1882-1971)
    Iceberg; Sledge Dogs, Greenland
    signed 'Rockwell Kent' (lower left)
    oil on canvas laid down on panel
    34 x 44 ½ in. (86.4 x 113 cm.)
    Painted circa 1935-37 and 1952.


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    This painting will be included in the catalogue raisonné currently being prepared by Richard V. West.

    This work is included in Scott R. Ferris's catalogue of artwork by Rockwell Kent (1882-1971). We would like to thank him for his assistance with cataloguing this lot.

    Rockwell Kent traveled to Greenland on three occasions between 1929 and 1935. From July 1931 to October 1932, and then again from June 1934 to June 1935, he lived in the small community of Igdlorssuit, on Ubekjendt Eiland (Unknown Island). It was during the latter trip that Kent penned his tome about life in Greenland–Salamina–and painted Iceberg.

    Marie Ahnighito Peary, born in Greenland and the daughter of the North Pole explorer Robert Edwin Peary, approved of Kent's observations of the native peoples and the terrain they inhabited. As she wrote in her review of Kent's then newly published Salamina for The Saturday Review: Kent's "word pictures" and illustrations are a "revelation to all those who think of Greenland as a desolate, unimpressive island, peopled with uncouth savages." As she knew from experience, the beauty and grandeur of the land were always present, but it took Kent to capture their majesty, to bring it all back home for the "less adventurous spirits to see and enjoy." (The Saturday Review, October 26, 1935, p. 11)

    In Iceberg, also referred to as Sledge Dogs, Greenland, Kent depicts the most reliable means of transportation in the frozen terrain of Greenland: the dog sled. Here the artist is a documentarian as he captures the lifestyle, culture and events of a lost chapter in human history. In his introduction to his book Greenland Journal, he reflects on how his work became a "record, intimate and authentic, of the past, of a way of life that has vanished beyond recall, and of a people the remains of whose ancient, cultural identity are fast being submerged by the tides of 'progress.'" (Greenland Journal, New York, 1962, p. vii)

    Before J.J. Ryan purchased Iceberg, Dan Burne Jones (Kent's biographer and author of The Prints of Rockwell Kent: A Catalogue Raisonné) and his wife Jacquie sought to acquire the painting. As Iceberg was already reserved for another collection, the artist set about duplicating the landscape of this composition and combined it thematically with The Artist in Greenland (Pushkin State Museum of Art, Moscow, Russia), to become another self-portrait (The Artist in Greenland, 1960, Baltimore Museum of Art, Baltimore, Maryland). A related composition, for its use of a dominant iceberg before which stands sledge dogs, is Seal Hunter: Greenland (The State Hermitage Museum, Saint Petersburg, Russia).

    Provenance

    The artist.
    Macbeth Gallery, New York.
    J.J. Ryan, Oak Ridge Estate, Arrington, Virginia, acquired from the above.
    By descent to the present owner, 1970.


    Pre-Lot Text

    Property from the Oak Ridge Collection of J.J. Ryan


    Literature

    S. Kent, "Rockwell Kent's Engagement with Life," American Dialog, vol. 6, no. 1, Autumn 1971, p. 21.
    S.R. Ferris, E. Pearce, Rockwell Kent's Forgotten Landscapes, Camden, Maine, 1998, p. 82.


    Exhibited

    (Probably) Washington, D.C., Gallery of Modern Masters, Greenland Paintings and Prints: Rockwell Kent, November 1-31, 1937, no. 12.
    (Probably) Houston, Texas, Meinhard-Taylor Galleries, Inc., Paintings, Lithographs, Wood Cuts by Rockwell Kent, November 11-23, 1940, no. 11.
    (Probably) New York, Wildenstein Galleries; Cincinnati, Ohio, A.B. Closson, Jr. Company; Los Angeles, California, Stendahl Art Galleries; Stockton, California, Haggin Memorial Art Galleries and San Joaquin Pioneer Museum; Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Milwaukee-Downer College, Chapman Memorial Library; Beloit, Wisconsin, Beloit College, Theodore Lyman Wright Art Hall; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Carnegie Institute; Boston, Massachusetts, Boston Symphony Hall, Know and Defend America, February 1942-March 1943, no. 17.