Sunday, February 28, 2016

Thomas Hart Benton - By Susan Hynes

Thomas Hart Benton Artist Profle: Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton
In 1889, Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri into a family of lawyers and politicians, but took his own 70-year path to become one of Missouri’s most famous painters. At the age of seventeen, Benton got a job working as a cartoonist for a small newspaper in Joplin, Missouri, marking the beginning of his art career. Then, in 1907, Benton enrolled into the Art Institute of Chicago to further his studies in art; this is where Benton learned to paint. Only enrolling for a year, Benton left the Art Institute in 1908 to travel to France, the center of the art world according to Benton. By 1918, Benton had become bored of Europe and joined the U.S. Navy, where he sketched many of the draftees. During Benton's time in the Navy, he realized that he was most comfortable and enjoyed creating scenes of people and their jobs. As Benton’s realistic style and use of oil paints began to shine, he received degrees from the University of Missouri and Lincoln University at Jefferson City, Missouri, and he began getting commissioned for murals.  
Tenant Farmer. 11x15
Towboat. 11x8
Coffee Break. 16x13
6 Pigs. 8x10

Horse Grazing. 7x5
Benton was hired by New York’s New School for Social Research to paint America Today in 1930, his first commissioned mural and later commissioned Whitney Museum of Art in 1932. After completing the work for the Whitney Museum, Benton was commissioned by the State of Indiana in 1933 to create a mural depicting the social evolution of the state to display at the World’s Fair, this mural was titled The Cultural & Industrial Progress of Indiana; this mural can be seen in the Auditorium of Indiana University at Bloomington. After his commission from Indiana, Missouri commissioned Benton to paint a mural for the Missouri State Capital building in Jefferson Missouri, Benton began this mural in 1934. In 1936 Benton finished A Social History of the State of Missouri, Benton got tons of criticism for this commission because he incorporated the Ku Klux Klan into the mural, however it was still viewed as an important and significant part of the state’s history. Throughout this two-year period, Benton met fellow painters John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, together the three men exhibited their work at the Feregil Galleries in 1934.

Benton received countless awards for his works, including being made an honorary member of L’Accademia Fiorentina delle Arti del Disegno and Accademia Senese degli Intronati in 1949. Benton continued to leave his mark across the Midwest until his death on January 19, 1975; he was 85 and had been working on a mural for the Country Music Hall of Fame of Nashville, Tennessee, this work was entitled The Sources of Country Music. The mural remains unfinished and unsigned.

I chose to look into Thomas Benton because when I opened the book of Benton’s sketches the pictures reminded me of the summers that I spent in Missouri and my grandparents; at the time I didn’t know that he was from Missouri. Benton’s style also interested me because it is similar to how I like to draw, realistically, and in this collection were sketches of the same types of things I enjoy drawing.
Sheep. 8x10

Jato. 7x5

Tennessee Belle. 14x10
Indian Study. 10x19

"Father Louis Hennepin at Niagara Falls", New York Power Authority, Niagara Falls, NY
River Club Indian Studies. 18x13 1/2
"The Social History of Missouri" Missouri State Capitol Building, 1936
Study for River Club Mural. 10x14
“Parks, the Circus, the Klan, the Press,” 1933, Panel 10 of the Indiana Murals, Indiana University.
The above picture includes the depiction of the Ku Klux Klan that gained Benton a lot of criticism, this image is also one portion of the "Social History of Missouri" mural. 

Seneca Indian. 6x6

Assiniboine Mountains. 13 1/2x10 3/4

Trail Riders 1964/1965 oil on canvas 56 1/8 x 74 in.

The Bull 19x11
West Texas 1952, oil on board 9 x 11 inches


Art in Missouri: Undocumented and underappreciated. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

Artist Profle: Thomas Hart Benton | Angie's Diary. (2013). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

Benton, T. H. (1968). Benton drawings a collection of drawings. Columbia: University of Missouri Press.

Muddy Colors: Artist of the Month: Thomas Hart Benton. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

Thomas Hart Benton Biography. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

Thomas Hart Benton | American Modernism | Metropolitan Museum of Art. (n.d.). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

West Texas. (2012). Retrieved February 28, 2016, from

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