When Arnold Knauth moved to Rockport in 1939, there was two-way traffic on Main Street and Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president.
At 94, Knauth has seen the rise and fall of many nations, and many technical advances. But the man has immersed himself in a timeless art form.
A painter for about 75 years, the walls of his Atlantic Avenue home serve as a historical record of time, both here and abroad. There is a watercolor painting of Main Street boasting the latest cars of the 1950s and a scene from Cuba in the era before Fidel Castro.
Knauth has been an artist member of Rockport Art Association since 1941, just 20 years after the organization was founded. The art association will hold a solo show of his oil paintings and watercolors with a free public opening reception on Sunday, March 24, from 2 to 4 p.m.
Born on New York City’s Upper West Side on Oct. 18, 1918, he attended boarding school in Massachusetts at the Middlesex School in Concord, and went on to receive art training at the National Academy of Design in New York.
He first landed in Rockport on his family’s schooner around 1935 when they stopped to visit the Beal family, including Gifford Beal and Reynolds Beal, both of whom became noted American painters.
“They suggested I study with Aldro Hibbard,” recalled Knauth, and he returned to Rockport in 1939 to do so.
“I was a goner after that. I just loved it and loved the life here,” he said, adding that he did not want to live in a big city. But his artistic pursuits were interrupted when he was drafted into the Army, in which he served 3 1/2 years during World War II. Much of that time, he spent in England and France.
Knauth grew up surrounded by fine art. His grandfather, G.H. Clements of Louisiana, was a noted painter. One large Clement canvas hangs in his studio, depicting a vibrant tribal dance scene from northern Africa. Also hanging in his house is a portrait of a Gloucester artist painted by Clements in August 1886, but Knauth didn’t recall the name of the artist.