- Benton, Thomas Hart
- (1889-1975)Born in Neosho, Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton briefly attended military school before going to study at Chicago Art Institute in 1906 and then in Paris from 1908 to 1911. In 1913, he moved to New York City, where he had his first successful show in 1916 as part of a modernist collection in the Forum exhibition. He served in the navy during World War I and afterward abandoned modernism in favor of the American scene and the rural emphasis associated with regionalism during the 1930s. During the 1920s, he completed 18 works as part of The American Historical Epic, and in 1930 he produced a series of murals entitled America Today. The vibrant colors and depictions of ordinary working people led some critics to compare him to both right- and leftwing art. His Indiana murals painted in 1933 to mark a Century of Progress and those in The Social History of the State of Missouri in the state capitol in Jefferson, Missouri, celebrated American settlement but also depicted scenes of racism and violence. Nonetheless, Benton made the cover of Time magazine in December 1934 and was regarded as one of the country’s leading artists.The richness of color and content in Benton’s voluptuous rural scenes, such as Cradling Wheat (1938) and Threshing Wheat (1939), were in stark contrast to the arid landscapes of the Dust Bowl recorded by the photographers of the Farm Security Administration. His autobiography, An Artist in America, appeared in 1937. From 1935 to 1941 Benton taught at the Kansas City Art Institute, where one of his students was Jackson Pollock, and during World War II he produced several paintings of Nazi atrocities. Although his style went out of fashion in the 1940s and 1950s, in 1961 he completed another mural depicting historical scenes, Independence and the Opening of the West, in the Truman library in Independence, Missouri.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.