ROCKWELL KENT FOR SHERWIN WILLIAMS 1939
March 23, 2010
The Home Decorator And Color Guide, Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams 1939. PSAW ephemera collections
Rockwell Kent, artist, author, adventurer, illustrator and political activist, might have been the most famous artist hired by Sherwin Williams for their catalogs. This is arguably their most famous catalog. Printed in 1939, it is filled with lavish Rockwell Kent illustrations and prose.
"The Rockwell Kent Gallery and Collection of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum, State University of New York, contains the most complete and balanced collection of Rockwell Kent's work in the United States. The gallery, located in the Feinberg Library, and the Feinberg Library Special Collections provide an excellent overview of the art, literary merit and political beliefs of Kent, and affords an unusual resource to scholars and students of twentieth century American art and of Rockwell Kent's growth as an artist and advocate for social justice"
Kent also experimented with reverse painting under glass, some of which are at Plattsburg. Someday soon I will take the ferry across Lake Champlain and pay a visit.
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams, 1939. Page 1.
The copy in this entire catalog is by Kent, who, in addition to studying painting, studied architecture at Columbia University:
"Half of the lives of most of us are spent a home. And HOME is what 'the woman' makes the house we live in to be. Good architecture, good taste in decoration, may be reduced to this: A good house is a house where people can be happy."
Rockwell Kent, As You Make Your Bed, Sherwin Williams 1939. PSAW ephemera collections.
"I have slept in the bed of the King Of Bulgaria and I have slept in warm reindeer skins on the hard ice of the frozen arctic sea. Tents, caves, shacks, lean-to's, barns, abandoned tenements; old wrecks of houses, brand new houses, little houses, big ones, clear up to the scale to palaces - and down again. Where it has been my right to fix such dwelling places up - if only for a transient stay - to fix them, make them be like home, I have. That's been a passion of my life. And if i were to declare which home of those I've had I've loved the most, I'd say: the one that's still unfinished"
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams, 1939. PSAW ephemera collections
"Who of us, looking back to childhood, doesn't recall the houses that we built of chairs and tables hung about with shawls? How wonderful it was to crawl into them, close the door, and sit there all cramped up, breathing their fetid air in glamorous twilight. Our parents home was for a time in life, to us, a vast, impersonal world. We built to shut it out, and later in the larger world we were to build those refuges from the impersonal and vast which we call HOME."
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Wiliams 1939. PSAW ephemera collection
Notice the books on the shelf. They are all by Kent:
Books by Rockwell Kent: N by E, published 1930, Salamina Published 1935, Voyaging published 1924, Wilderness Published 1920
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams, 1939, Wallpaper
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams, 1939
"The old house farther out from town around the bay, being in no degree a mansion, was more inviting to the style of living which I thought our fifty Dollars a month might comfortably yield the five of us- a style to which, to tell the truth, we were accustomed. The house, they said, had not been lived in for fully twenty years; and through what weather and bad boys had done, I didn't question it. But it had style....I scraped and smoothed its weather beaten boards, filled them and painted them. Old lilac bushed stood around the house, their background was the bay; lilac and blue and a green hillside bright with dandelions; and the house - pure white. The doors I painted peacock green -all except one which, for the fun of it I painted pink. So far, so good.
"then one day I discovered an old ship's figure head in somebody's back - yard. It was a girl - of course- they mostly are- but quite forlorn, impoverished and unkempt. I couldn't buy her so I borrowed her. I washed and scraped and sanded her; I painted her skin an ivory white, put roses in her cheeks, made her hair and eyebrows black, penciled her eyes; I hung gold pendants from her ears and a necklace around her throat; I clothed her in splendor. Ad so that all people would love to come to our house, Iput her up over the front door from where she looked out day and night over that sea which had once been her world. Yet my bedizing her was her undoing; Years later, going upon some errand into a fashionable antique shop in New York, I saw her once again. She wore the gown, roses, jewels I had given her. She was for sale, and I was poor. She cut me dead."
Rockwell Kent, Sherwin Williams, 1939 p. back cover fold -over
I just came upon an image I've yearned to find for decades! In the 1930s Sherwin Williams featured houses that fit right into the Blandings fantasy. The houses were painted by S-W in exchange for the right to use them in advertisements. My great-grandfather's farm was the illustration for one of the ads. Family lore had it that he was very pleased with himself for having had the farm painted at no expense. My Dad spent summers there and remembered the ad in The Saturday Evening Post. But in keeping with a Kansasville, WI, no-nonsense sensibility, no one in the family held on to a copy. It might have seemed, well, too full of oneself.
In the 1950s Dad's aunt ran the farm and visits there were heaven for my cousins and me. I learned to ride on a retired Tennessee walker and have remained horse crazy all my life. The barns, the Guernseys, the enormous kitchen where our great aunt would serve meals for all the farm help - are all irrevocably of an era so far in the past it may as well be centuries.
Maude's last survivor, her daughter-in-law, sold the farm in the 1960s. There was no one to continue it but many of us with memories that made deep impressions, all good.
Scrolling through Liza's vintage booklet of bakelite colors and housewives in heels was so entertaining. I was completely startled to see the farm and in a flash of recognition become nine years old. I am not tall enough to throw the saddle over a horse's back so my 70 year old aunt is helping me. She would never fathom the life I would lead. The barn was probably still Sherwin Williams Commonwealth Red.