Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thomas Hart Benton

I love, love, love the extraordinary artwork of Thomas Hart Benton, and not just because he was an old Missour-ah guy, like my WT. His naturalistic regionalism movement works are mostly associated with the Midwest. They are powerful and energetic, with just the perfect amount of fluidity, while exuding a marvelous sculpted quality.

When we lived in Kansas City, MO, I enjoyed the sizable collection of his work at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Benton actually taught there from 1935-1941, his most famous student being Jackson Pollock. The museum is also home to his masterpiece, Persephone, his recast of the Greek myth in a rural setting, where a farm girl is caught sunbathing by Hades, portrayed by a lustful aging farmer. Much like his contemporary, Diego Rivera, his Indiana Murals stirred quite a controversy, when he refused to sugarcoat the state's history, including a portrayal of the Ku Klux Klan in this work. The murals are now on display at Indiana University in Bloomington,
where my daughter did her undergraduate work. If you are interested in discovering more on Benton, Ken Burns made an excellent documentary on his life, part of his American Stories
series.

People of Chilmark, Thomas Hart Benton, 1920

33 comments:

  1. Thanks for introducing me to Thomas Hart Benton. I guess I was so stressed out when I was a student down at Bloomington, I was unaware of this fine artists. I'll have to catch these murals on my next visit to my alma mater; "Hail to old IU" :)
    The Bach

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  2. Bach, yes, good old IU...where the flowers are always bloomington! ;)

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  3. Glad you referred to Diego Rivera... muralists of that era were attempting to do art for average people - workers and others who struggled against great odds. They had great faith in "the common man".

    I don't think either Benton of Rivera would find patrons in today's corporate and buttoned down government environments. Their liberal and social(ist) beliefs would be considered too radical and controversial. And that says quite a bit about who we are in 2008.

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  4. Benton, like Rivera, persevered and held true to his art and to himself.

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  5. You are a wonderful teacher. I took one required art appreciation course in college and the professor was a "nut case", so I never really had any desire to persue it further. I know when I like art, and don't, but I've never really studied the artists. I've know a few and they have all seemed tortured in some way. Thanks, Pappy

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  6. Willow, I read that Benton was a contemporary of Grant Wood (one of my favorite Regionalist) and that he was one of Jackson Pollock teachers. Pollock often said that Benton's traditional teachings gave him something to rebel against.Different strokes for different folks.

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  7. I also like Grant Wood's work and have a framed sketch of his. Some of Chris Van Allsburg's art has a similar quality.

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  8. Thanks for the intro to Benton. I've never seen his work. I'll have to look up the Ken Burns documentary.

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  9. I love learning about this guy from you today. First he looks like a writer with that mustache of his. Your description of his artwork is beautiful and fitting. The sample painting you showed reminds me of a modern ElGreco (the Burial of Count Orgaz). I like his style, a modern classic to me. You are a good teacher.

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  10. I think his work beautifuly haunting.Thank you for sharing him with us. hugs Marie antionette

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  11. Ces, yes, now that you say it, it does have a few similar qualities to Burial of Count Orgaz, which I love, BTW.

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  12. Willow...this is what I like most about my visit to your blog..I've not heard of Benton, but am most happy for the introduction. What an incredible artist...I can see why he is one of your favorites. These murals are fantastic...thank you for sharing. I'll enjoy reading a bit more about him.

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  13. Thanks, DeeDee! That means so much to me. I always try to make my posts an interesting read.

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  14. Marie, thanks for stopping by Willow Manor and for signing my guest book! Stop in again soon. :)

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  15. What a wonderful vivid painting, thank you.

    BTW I TAGGED YOU for a seriously fun one back at mine!

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  16. His work is so recognizable. Funny--when I read the biography of Jackson Pollack, he claimed Benton was a huge influence on him, and I never could quite see that! ;))

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  17. An interesting post. I have heard of THB but not those Indiana murals. I like the work of Grant Wood too...

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  18. There is so much movement in this piece! Just wonderful!

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  19. thank you for the marvelous links. I know abou this art movement but had not seen this painting before. Lovely. Looks like Corravagio's light and dark work.

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  20. I was also amazed that Jason Pollock was a student of Benton! They couldn't be more diverse.

    Lovely links to enjoy ...thanks!

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  21. Once again Willow you've taught me something. I'm off to follow the links.

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  22. Amazing painting. Like a modern El Greco.

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  23. He reminds me of a painter called Charles Meere (I do think THB may have come first...).

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  24. I'm not familiar with Charles Meere...I'm off to google to find out...

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  25. One of our artists for the Oklahoma State Capitol building studied under Benton. His name is Charles Banks Wilson and is well known for portraits of Native Americans. Interesting to see the photo posted. I can see where Wilson got his style for some murals in the Capitol building.

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  26. Pamokc, thanks so much for you input...I'm not familiar with Charles Banks Wilson...I'm off to wiki to read up.

    Welcome to Willow Manor...hope you come back again soon!

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  27. I always loved the fact that Pollock said THB was such a big influence on him. I think that's a case of teaching at its best... the teacher passes on what he/she will and then the student takes what he's learned and puts it through his own filter.

    I went to IU myself and fondly remember those murals.

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  28. Jennifer, I totally agree. Just because THB's style wasn't evident in Pollock's work, doesn't mean that he wasn't a big influence.

    Thanks for your input and for stoppig by Willow Manor! :)

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  29. I've been here numerous times today trying to get all of the directions and ingredients for that olive bread! I've been on a green olive jag for the past month and when I saw that... well, I'm making it in about an hour. If it weren't for that olive bread, I wouldn't have seen the post on THB. I'll now think of THB every time I see or make olive bread. I just hope it's not as rubbery as his figures.

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  30. Well, I hope the olive loaf turns out for you. Like I said, it is a very forgiving recipe...I estimated on the ingredients and also doubled them. It was delicious!

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  31. I love all of his work and have for years.

    A favorite Thomas Hart Benton painting is Here.
    Martha and I lived in Borger after we graduated from College. I was a Scientist/Engineer and Martha was a Science/Math teacher. The painting is Borger's Main Street during Boom town days.

    The smoke in the back is a "Carbon Black Plant". CB is used in tires to prevent wear and gives the tire its black color. CB is produced by burning oil and gas in an oxygen depleted atmosphere

    Come visit anytime,
    Troy and Martha

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  32. Troy, thank you so much! I thoroughly enjoyed THB's "Boom Town"...thanks for sending me the link and also for the background info on the painting!

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Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)