This series contains Kent's personal and professional correspondence, along with business records of the dairy farm and associated enterprises; also included are printed matter on a wide variety of topics and promotional literature relating to organizations and causes of interest to him. Voluminous correspondence with his three wives, five children, and other relatives, as well as with literally hundreds of friends--both lifelong and of brief duration--illuminates Kent's private life and contributes to understanding of his complex character. Among the many correspondents of note are: his art teachers William Merritt Chase, Robert Henri, and Kenneth Hayes Miller; fellow artists Tom Cleland, Arthur B. Davies, James Fitzgerald, Hugo Gellert, Harry Gottleib, Marsden Hartley, Charles Keller, and Ruth Reeves; collectors Duncan Phillips and Dan Burne Jones; critics J. E. Chamberlain and Walter Pach; and dealers Charles Daniel, Felix Wildenstein, and Macbeth Galleries. Kent corresponded with such diverse people as Arctic explorers Peter Freuchen, Knud Rasmussen, and Vilhjalmar Steffanson; composer Carl Ruggles and songwriters Lee Hays and Pete Seeger; civil rights pioneers Paul Robeson and Dr. W. E. B. Du Bois; writers Bayard Boyesen, Scott and Helen Nearing, and Louis Untermeyer; and art historian and print curator Carl Zigrosser.
Kent's interest and involvement in the labor movement are reflected in correspondence with officials and members of a wide variety and large number of unions and related organizations, among them: the Farmers' Educational and Cooperative Union of America, Farmers' Union of the New York Milk Shed, International Workers Order, National Maritime Union, and United Office and Professional Workers of America. Of special interest is his participation, often in leadership roles, in various attempts to organize artists. Files on the American Artists' Congress, Artists League of America, The Artists Union, United American Artists, and United Scenic Artists contain particularly valuable material on the movement.
A supporter of New Deal efforts to aid artists, Kent was actively interested in the various programs and often was critical of their limitations; he advocated continuing federal aid to artists after the Depression abated. The Kent Papers include correspondence with the Federal Arts Project, Federal Fine Arts Project, Federal Writers' Project, and the War Department, as well as correspondence with the Citizens' Committee for Government Art Projects and President Franklin D. Roosevelt on the subject.
Kent's professional correspondence documents exhibitions, sales, consignments, and reproduction of prints and paintings. He kept meticulous records of his advertising commissions and illustration work. Detailed correspondence with publishers and printers indicates Kent's involvement in the technical aspects of production and provides a good overview of the publishing industry during the mid-twentieth century.
Business records of Asgaard Farm include records of the dairy and transfer of ownership to its employees, tax and employee information, and documents concerning several related business ventures such as distributorships for grain, feed, and farm implements.
Letters to Rockwell Kent from wives Frances and Sally (Shirley Johnstone), sealed during Sally's lifetime, became available for research in 2000 and were microfilmed later on reels 5740-5741.
File titles are, in most cases, those used by Rockwell and Sally Kent, with some minor changes for consistency. The Kents' filing system included a "Miscellaneous" designation for each letter of the alphabet, used for single items or small quantities not requiring separate folders. To facilitate access and for ease of microfilm use, contents of the miscellaneous folders have been interfiled in sequence.
Material is arranged alphabetically, usually by the name of the individual or organization represented, though some file titles represent subjects or occasions (e.g., "Spanish Causes" and "Birthday").
Records are arranged chronologically within each file; brief summaries are provided for many titles, usually where there is a significant amount of material. Cross-referencing is supplied where possible to indicate areas of overlap, inconsistencies in filing, or name changes; references are to other file titles within this series.
The bulk of this series has been digitized. Material of very specialized or limited interest (e.g. banking records, dairy immunization records, employee tax records, dog licenses etc.) has not been digitized.
The microfilm of this collection has been digitized and is available online via AAA's website. Use of material not microfilmed or digitized requires an appointment.
Rockwell Kent papers, circa 1840-1993, bulk 1935-1961. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.