Rockwell Kent

American, 1882–1971

Resurrection Bay, Alaska, c. 1939
Oil on canvas on board
28 x 44 ½ in. (71.1 x 113 cm)
Frye Art Museum, Seattle, Washington. 

For Rockwell Kent, the far reaches of the northern landscape offered a spiritual refuge from the trivialities of daily life. A consummate individualist, he lived for brief periods in Newfoundland, Alaska, and Greenland.

During 1918–19, Kent spent nine months with his nine-year-old son in a one-room cabin on Fox Island, located 13 nautical miles from Seward, Alaska. In Resurrection Bay, Alaska, the artist paints Bear Glacier, which is visible in the distance. He may have arrived at this composition, a combination of several views, in the manner described in his Wilderness journal on January 23, 1919:

During the day I paint out-of-doors from nature by way of fixing the forms and above all the color of the out-of-doors in my mind. Then after dark I go into a trance. . . I lie down or sit with closed eyes until I “see” a composition, —then I make a quick note of it, maybe give an hour’s time to perfecting the arrangement on a small scale.

Since Kent’s time, the 15.5 mile (25 km) Bear Glacier, among the best-documented fields of ice in the United States, has been rapidly retreating.

Postcard view of Bear Glacier, 1920, courtesy of the U.S. Geological Survey

Bruce F. Molnia, Bear Glacier, 2005, courtesy of the U.S.Geological Survey