William Kent at age 93, sculptor and printmaker, died August 16, 2012, at his home in Durham, Connecticut. Born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1919, he served in the Navy, graduated from Northwestern University, and came to Yale University to study Music Theory and composition under world-famous composer Paul Hindemith. While at Yale Kent became interested in art, and began to teach himself to paint in oils, and then to sculpt in clay, and carve in marble and wood. He never attended art classes and was completely self-taught.
In 1963 he began carving into huge discarded slate blackboards, and developed a unique method of printing mono prints on fabric without assistants or the use of machinery.
His exhibitions in New York City in the 1960's of both his sculptures and his prints were critically acclaimed, and bought by museums and important collectors.
From 1963-1976 he devoted himself solely to carving the bas-reliefs and pulling mono prints. By 1964 he had moved to a farm house in Durham. In 1977 he stopped making prints and resumed carving large wood sculptures, and worked in his barn studio until two days before his death.
Kent did not fit comfortably into any art "school." Although he was exhibited with POP artists during their popularity in the '60s, his biting political, and satirical works were too strong for POP; he called their work "home decoration." His work was also exhibited at an outsider art fair, but this sophisticated man was highly intelligent, well educated, and other than being self-taught and in later years living a reclusive life, he was certainly not an "outsider" artist.
In 1961, Kent became the first curator for the newly formed The John Slade Ely Art Center in New Haven, working before and after hours in his own studio. At that time he was founder and secretary of PAC (Professional Artists of Connecticut). In 2009, he received an award honoring artistic excellence from the Arts Council of Greater New Haven. Most recently he exhibited locally at The Sculpture Mile, Madison, Greene Art Gallery, Guilford, and a one-man exhibition at Kehler Liddell Gallery, New Haven, 2009.
William Kent never married and had no children. Several years before his death he formed the William Kent Charitable Foundation for the purpose of helping artists over age 60 in financial need, a state in which he found himself at times over the years. There will be a memorial service in October, 2012 at his studio in Durham.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, 1919
Northwestern University, Evanston, IL, B.S., 1944; Yale University School of Music, 1944-47
Studied Music Theory and Composition with Paul Hindemith
Curator, John Slade Ely House Art Center, New Haven, CT, 1960-65
Founder & Secretary of Professional Artist of Connecticut, 1962-65
Permanent Collections (A Selection):
John and Kimiko Powers
Walter P. Chrysler, Jr.
Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester University
Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University
Kalamazoo Institute of Arts
De Cordova Museum and Sculpture Park
Princeton University Art Museum
New Britain Museum of American Art
Richard Brown Baker
Robert M. Bohlen
Detroit Institute of Fine Arts
Yale Art Gallery
Castellane Gallery, NY. One man Shows: 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965
Wadsworth Atheneum, 1963
Pennsylvania Academy, 1964
De Cordova Museum, 1964/66
Brooklyn Museum, 15th Annual Print Exhibition, 1964
Whitney Museum of American Art, Whitney Annual, 1966
New Britain Museum of American Art, 1975
Monique Knowlton Gallery, Kent, CT 1994
The Hollycroft Foundation, Ivoryton, CT 1996
Colgate University, The Picker Art Gallery, 1997
Detroit Institute of Fine Arts, 2000-2001
The Sculpture Mile, Madison, CT, 20001-2003
Chase/Freedman Gallery, West Hartford, CT, 2003
University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor, 2004
Mobile Alabama Museum, 2005
Evergreen Woods. Branford, CT, 2005
The Sculpture Mile at Middletown, CT. 2005-06
Museum of Arts & Design, NYC, 2006
Keller-Liddell Gallery, New Haven, CT, 2009
"Old Master", by Brandon Benevento (New Haven Magazine, July 2009)
"The Wood Man: Ending the year on a grace note with Bill Kent", by Alan Bisbort (Hartford Advocate, December 27, 2007)
The Artists Bluebook: 34,000 North American Artists to March 2005, ed. Lonnie Pierson (AskArt.com Inc. 2005)
Nature Transformed: Wood Art from the Bohlen Collection, ed. Sean M. Ulmer (University of Michigan Museum of Art 2004)
"The Art of Shapes and Forms", by Eric Lopkin ("Weekend" Cover Story, The Middletown Press, August 28, 2003)
Chiseling Away at Life, by Tracey O'Shaughnessy (Waterbury Republican-American, 2002)
"How Prints Got an Artist in Hot Water", by Alan Bisbort (The New York Times, Sunday Connecticut Section, September 3, 2000)
"A Carving Artist", by Alan Bisbort (The New Haven Advocate, December 2, 1999)
"Connecticut Masters", by Alan Bisbort (Connecticut Magazine, August 1998)
Pop Art with Social Pop: Slate Prints by William Kent, by Robert McVaugh (Catalogue for The Picker Art Gallery, Colgate University, 1997)
"William Kent: An Odessey in Art", by Don Schiller (Record-Journal, Meriden CT, Sunday, March 31, 1996)
"Raw Vision", (September, 1982 , British magazine.)
Arts in America/A Bibliography Vol. I, ed. Bernard Karpel & Ruth Spiegel, 1979
The Art of the Print, by Fritz Eichenberg (Harry N. Abrams, New York, 1976)
POP ART, Lucy R. Lippard with contributions by Lawrence Alloway, Nancy Marmer, Nicholas Calas (Frederick A. Praeger, 1966)
ART MAGAZINE NO.9 1966, 3-page article in a Japanese Magazine 1966
The Whitney Museum of American Art Annual 1965, catalogue.
11 New England Sculptors, Wadsworth Atheneum Catalogue, 1963
WILLIAM KENT CARVINGS: A Record, Ed. William Kent (Philistine Press, 1960)