Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton

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Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton was a regionalist American painter whom was known for his beautiful, vigorous, and colorful murals of the 1930’s. He made very many beautiful, famous painting and murals. Most of the rollicking scenes in his paintings and murals are from the rural past of the American South and Midwest. He has studied in Kansas City, MO; Paris, France; and the ever-changed New York City.

Thomas Hart Benton was born in the familiar, small town of Neosho, Missouri. He was named after his granduncle, the famed and prominent pre-American Civil War senator. First Thomas Hart Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and then lived in beautiful Paris for three years. When he came back he moved to New York City after 1912 he turned away from his usual style, modernism, and gradually developed a rugged naturalism that affirmed traditional rural values. By the 1930’s Benton was riding a tide of popular acclaim along with his fellow regionalist Grant Wood, who was responsible for American Gothic, and John Steuart Curry, who was responsible for The Tragic Prelude. The mural, America Today (1930-1931, The Equitable Life Assurance Society of the U.S., New York City), Thomas Hart Benton’s masterpiece, presented an optimistic portrayal of a vital country filled with earthy, muscular figures.

Later on, Thomas Hart Benton returned to Missouri to teach at he Kansas City Institute, and continued to paint both panels and murals. Thomas Hart Benton’s mural in the Missouri state capitol in Jefferson City (1935) stirred disputes because of its open portrayals of some of the seamier facets of Missouri’s past.

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Other Missouri murals, including Benton’s, are in the Truman Memorial Library, Independence (1961), and in Joplin (1973). Of all of Thomas Hart Benton’s students his most famous was Jackson Pollock, who studied with Thomas at the Art Students League in New York City from 1929 to 1931. Jackson was also responsible for the painting Black and White.
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