Thomas hart benton

Thomas Hart Benton : He was an American painter, famous for his fluid style, with sculptural figures and luminous representations of everyday scenes from the American Midwest. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry , he is considered the great representative of the so-called American Regionalist movement.


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  • 1 Biographical data
    • 1 Trajectory
    • 2 Academic activity
  • 2 Work for the Regional Congress in Jefferson City
  • 3 Works
  • 4 Sources

Biographical data

He was born on 15 of April of 1889 in Neosho , Missouri and died the 19 of January of 1975 .Nacido within a wealthy family that was active in American public life (his uncle was a senator in the run- up to the War Secession ).


From his youth Benton worked as a cartoonist for the Joplin Journal newspaper , published in the city of Joplin ; his artistic vocation led him to leave his homeland when he was very young, to study at the Art Institute of Chicago. After his formative years, he decided to travel to Europe and lived for three years in Paris , at that time the most important artistic center that was experiencing the emergence of the avant-gardes, and which gave Benton’s painting a clear modernist influence. In France , Benton treated other artists such as Diego Rivera or Stanton Macdonald-Wright .

At the age of 24, he moved to New York , a city that was beginning to emerge as heir to Parisian cultural importance and was receiving significant cultural immigration from Europe . The return to his native country produced in Benton’s work a progressive abandonment of the style acquired in his Parisian years. The great depression of 1929 produced, or at least coincided with it in time, an important reaction among American painters who felt the imminent need to define a national identity through their work.

Abandoning the foreignizing idea of ​​”art for art’s sake” of the European avant-garde, the only way out was realism and the American trajectory started by the painters at the beginning of the century who made up the Group of Eight , also known as Ash Can School, was resumed. ( School of the Garbage Cans ); This group had broken with academicism by proposing a genre painting in which popular themes were portrayed. In this context, the regionalist school was born, whose top representatives were Benton and Ivan Albright. Benton developed the somewhat cartoonish, naturalistic style that would make him famous as the artist who portrayed traditional American values ​​through a lighthearted and somewhat melancholic vision of a dying world, the rural world of the United States .

In 1930 he was commissioned to paint a mural for the New Institute of Social Studies in New York . This work, entitled Modern America , is considered Benton’s masterpiece and marked his definitive consecration as a painter. The mural represents the American people through a series of characters, simple and muscular, that convey vitality and optimism.

Academic activity

He began teaching painting classes at the Art Student’s League in New York (where he had Jackson Pollock as a student between 1929 and 1931 ). He never abandoned academic activity, which he combined with his creative side. He later moved to Missouri where he taught at the Art Institute of Kansas City .

Work for the Regional Congress in Jefferson City

In 1935 he received a new commission, this time for the Regional Congress in Jefferson City , Missouri . This play provoked a bitter controversy, as Benton did not renounce to represent some of the seedier facets of Missouri’s past (black slaves working on cotton plantations or clandestine liquor factories were part of Benton’s thematic repertoire). However, Benton was an established artist by then and continued to work and receive commissions to paint murals in the state of Missouri , such as the one in Joplin in 1973 or the one in the Truman Memorial Library inIndependence , made in 1961. In 1966 he suffered a heart attack, during his convalescence he painted Wheat .


The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Arts houses the largest collection of Benton’s works. Among others, this museum has one of his best-known paintings, his Persephone .


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