William Kent, age 93, suffered a series of small strokes over the past two weeks and died yesterday evening, August 16, in his Durham, Connecticut home. He had continued working on a monumental wood sculpture until two days before he died.
Never married, this extraordinary man leaves no children, only a studio filled with hundreds of wood and stone sculptures, and fabric monoprints hand-pulled from his huge slate bas reliefs. A student of music at Yale under Hindemuth in the late 1940s, he became interested in art, and self-taught himself the skills of working in oil paint, quickly moved into carving marble, and wood in the ‘50s. From 1963 to 1976 he devoted himself solely to carving huge slate blackboards, and without assistance or mechanical presses, pulled about 2,000 monoprints, at first on rice paper, then on varied colored fabrics. After that intense period, he returned to carving his man-size wood sculptures in the round.
Best known during his critically well-received exhibitions in the 1960’s, by mid-decade he had left the New York City art scene, to live quietly working daily in his studio in Durham farm country.
William Kent’s work is in a number of museums and important private collections. Occasionally a piece will come to auction, and on September 22, a marvelous pine wood sculpture previously owned by the Chrysler Museum (see below) will be auctioned by Nest Egg Auctions in Meriden, CT. Bidding can be placed there, or by registering online at Liveauctioneers.com.
A number of years before his death he formed the William Kent Charitable Foundation for the purpose of helping indigent artists, a state in which he had found himself many times over the years. A Foundation website is in construction www.williamkentfoundation.org.
There will be a memorial service in October at his studio in Durham. Information will be posted on the website, or contact (203) 421-3039.
(Thanks to Joan Baer.)
Pictured: Nature Lover #4, Reclining Man with Grasshopper, 1961, Pine and Mahogany. Photo by Nest Egg Auctions.