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Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)


Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri on April 15, 1889. Even as a boy, he was no stranger to the "art of the deal" or to the smoke-filled rooms in which such deals were often consummated. His grandfather, for whom he was named, had been Missouri's first United States senator and has served in Washington for thirty years. His father, Maecenas Benton, was United States attorney for the Western District of Missouri under Cleveland and served in the United States House of Representatives during the McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt administrations. Benton's brother, Nat, was prosecutor for Greene County, Missouri, during the 1930s. As soon as he could walk, Benton traveled with his father on political tours. There he learned the arts of chewing and smoking, and while the men were involved in their heated discussions, Benton delighted in finding new creamcolored wallpaper on the staircase wall, at the age of six or seven, and drew in charcoal his first mural, a long multicar freight train. As soon as he was eighteen, even though his father wanted him to study law, Benton left for Chicago where he studied at the Art Institute during the years 1907 and 1908. He continued his studies in Paris, where he learned delicious wickedness, aesthetic and otherwise. Once back home, he became the leader of the Regionalist School, the most theatrical and gifted of the 1930s muralists and as Harry Truman described him,"the best damned painter in America." Detractors said that Benton was "a fascist, a communist, a racist and a bigot"; the ingenious structure, powerful use of modeling and scale and the high-colored humanity of the murals and easel paintings are retort enough. He was a dark, active dynamo, only 5 ft., 3 1/2 in. tall. He was outspoken, open, charmingly profane; he had a great mane of hair and a face the texture of oak bark. He wore rumpled corduroy and flannel, and walked with the unsteady swagger of a sailor just ashore. He poured a salwart drink, chewed on small black cigars and spat in the fire. Benton was once described as the "churlish dean of regionalist art". If you listened to a variety of art authorities, you would find them equally divided between Harry Truman's assessment of Benton as "the best damned painter in America."and Hilton Kramer who proclaimed Benton "a failed artist." .The East Coast art establishment tended to regard Benton as memorable for one reason only: he was the teacher of Jackson Pollock. Benton was married in 1922 to Rita, a gregarious Italian lady, and they had a daughter and a son. At the height of his fame in the 1940s, Benton bungled the buy-out he was offered by Walt Disney and went his own way, completing his last mural in 1971, at age eighty-five, in acrylics. He died in 1975. Sources: LA Times, Book Review section of Sunday, November 26, 1989 M.Therese Southgate, MD in the Journal of the American Medical Association; John Garriety in Connoisseur Magazine, April 1989 Jules Loh, "Unforgettable Thomas Hart Benton", in Reader's Digest Compiled and written by Jean Ershler Schatz, artist and researcher from Laguna Woods, California. BIOGRAPHY FROM: Archives of

Title: The Corral
The Corral.jpg

Medium: Lithograph 
Date: 1948
Size: 13 5/8" x 9 3/8"

Title: Goin' Home
Title: Chopping Wood
Title: Loading Corn
Title: The Miracle Witness

Medium: Conte Crayon

Date: 1990

Size: 35.5" x 23.75"

Signature: Signed lower left, dated, titled verso

Price: $10,500.00

Title: Sanctuary

Medium: Conte Crayon on paper

Date: 1980

Size: 34" x 22"

Signature: Signed lower right, titled verso

Price: $10,500.00

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