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Circa 1934: Images of American Agriculture & Industry by Rockwell Kent & J. J. Lankes

September 24 through November 20, 2011

Kent_LankesDespite the economic impact of the Great Depression, not all artists participated in New Deal programs like the Public Works of Art Project (PWAP).  The two artists featured in this small exhibition from the collections of the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Rockwell Kent (1882–1971) and Julius John Lankes (1884–1960), were not employed by the PWAP or other government relief programs.  Kent wrote and illustrated books as he had before the Depression.  Lankes taught at Wells College in Aurora, NY from 1932 to 1939 and he illustrated books.

When the stock market crashed in October 1929, Lankes was assisting Kent by cutting numerous woodblocks commissioned by Doremus and Company, a New York advertising agency whose clients included United Founders Corporation and American Founders Group—stockbrokers for banks and investment firms.  These woodblock prints were published as full-page advertisements in the newspapers of thirty-three major cities and in revised form in Forbes, Harper’s, Scribner’s, Time, and other magazines.

The ad had the effect of associating the client with Kent, the best-known artist-illustrator of the day, whose reputation had been built on illustrations of classic literature and books he wrote about adventure in the arctic and the Pacific.  These graphic ads communicated the courageous spirit of the companies in ways that marketing slogans could not.

The prints of Kent and Lankes provide a slightly bigger picture of American art produced circa 1934.

Rockwell Kent (American, 1882–1971), Concrete Bridge, 1930, woodcut on paper, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts, Montgomery, Alabama, Gift of J.B. Lankes, 2005.12.1