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John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, VI: Rockwell Kent and the End of the World

Justin Wolff, associate professor of art history, University of Maine. In November 1937 Life magazine featured four lithographs by the American artist Rockwell Kent (1882-1971) in the article “Four Ways in Which the World May End.” In this lecture from the inaugural John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art, held at the National Gallery of Art on October 22, 2016, Justin Wolff analyzes the so-called “End of the World” lithographs, part of the National Gallery of Art collection, in the context of scientific theories about cosmic cataclysm, suspicions that European fascism portended an apocalypse, and Kent’s solidarity with a radical leftism that anticipated capitalism’s disintegration. Wolff considers looking beyond their political meaning to what the lithographs tell us about Kent’s renowned emotional intensity and wanderlust—specifically, what they reveal about his tenacious quest to acquire psychic integrity in barren lands at the ends of the world. The John Wilmerding Symposium on American Art is made possible by a generous grant from The Walton Family Foundation.

Released: November 29, 2016