The Rockwell Kent Connection
The wonderful studio space on Monhegan used by James Fitzgerald for the last twenty years of his life was constructed by Rockwell Kent in 1910 on land and with materials purchased by Kent’s mother Sarah. According to his autobiography ‘It’s Me O Lord’, the entire construction was completed in one month from mid-May to mid-June. Named at the time ‘The Monhegan Summer School of Art’, it was used as such by Kent and his associate Julius Golz for only one season.
The studio is a rectangular structure, and features a large north window and a fireplace adorned with a Caproni and Brother plaster cast of the Parthenon frieze from the British Museum. The studio window overlooks the Monhegan meadow, with a view towards the harbor and Manana beyond.
Alice Kent Stoddard, a first cousin of Rockwell’s, initially rented the studio starting in 1912 from her Aunt Sarah, and eventually bought it in 1931. She used the space as studio and living quarters until 1946.
James Fitzgerald purchased the nearby Mary Kelsey “Marigold” cottage (built by Kent in 1907) and swapped it for the studio in 1952. He used it as both studio and living space until his acquisition of the 1906 Kent house from Rockwell Kent in 1958. Thus, Fitzgerald owned at one time or another three of the four structures built by Kent on Monhegan.
Fitzgerald Studio with Monhegan harbor and Manana in background
Fitzgerald and Kent became acquainted following the tragedy surrounding the death of Sally Moran on Monhegan in 1953. For the last two decades of their lives, Fitzgerald and Kent had a relationship marked by an exchange of letters. This correspondence, now a part of the Fitzgerald Legacy archives, reveals a friendship between the artists that grew over the years, eventually resulting in the offer by Kent to Fitzgerald of first refusal for his Monhegan house in 1958.
The Kent house, nestled in the hillside, benefited from his training in architecture. Kent understood and had become a part of island life, and the home and studio he built for himself in the first decade of the twentieth century are another expression of his artistic experience on Monhegan. The house still contains original Kent furnishings, including a square piano, Victorian wing back sofa, 1840 mahogany-cased brass works mantle clock, writing desk, and rocking chair.
Fitzgerald’s ownership of the house and studio passed to his patrons Anne and Edgar Hubert upon his death in 1971. Both structures are now part of the Monhegan Museum thanks to the 2003 gift of Anne Hubert. The Fitzgerald Legacy and the Monhegan Museum have opened the Kent/Fitzgerald buildings to the public. An annual exhibition of Fitzgerald paintings is on display in the studio, and many works of Fitzgerald as well as two Kent ink drawings are on display in the house. Located on Monhegan’s Horn Hill, the two cedar shake shingled structures are on the National Register of Historic Places.
In 2007, the Fitzgerald Legacy and Monhegan Museum, in conjunction with SUNY Plattsburgh Art Museum, Rockwell Kent Gallery, held a Symposium at the Monhegan Schoolhouse marking the centenary of Kent’s Monhegan home. Several papers presented at the Symposium have since been published in ‘The Kent Collector’, a journal of the Plattsburgh State Art Museum.
The studio and house are open to the public from late June until the end of September on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 1:00 to 3:00 PM, as well as by special appointment. See contact information.