Thomas Hart Benton

United States 1889 - 1975

Realism, Painting, Murals

Thomas Hart Benton
Thomas Hart Benton
United States
April 6, 2015
Alias of Jasmina Sevic, a researcher and author for Widewalls. She graduated from the Faculty of Political Science (Department for Journalism) in Belgrade in 2013.

Thomas Hart Benton was an American painter famous for his murals that show ordinary people in scenes of life in the United States. Benton was born in 1983 in Neosho, Missouri into an influential family of politicians. He was named after his great-great-uncle, Thomas Hart Benton, one of the first two United States Senators elected from Missouri.

Benton’s Education and Influence of Diego Rivera

From an early age Benton showed remarkable skill as an artist, a talent his mother encouraged but which his father deplored, since he wished his son to focus on politics or law. Nevertheless, Benton persuaded his father to send him to art school in Chicago in 1907. He eventually transferred to the Julian Academy in Paris, where he was influenced by the style of Diego Rivera, a prominent muralist. It was Rivera’s use of bright colors to depict socialism that inspired Benton’s style during his Regionalism years. After studying in Europe, Benton moved to New York City in 1912 and resumed painting. During World War I, Benton took up a job as a draftsman for the Navy and switched from painting landscapes to sketching scenes from shipyard life. Back in the New York art scene during the 1920s, Benton taught at the Art Students League and began to gain acclaim for his works that addressed the social realities of the city.

Benton’s Ordinary People

The turning point in Benton’s career came in 1924, when he returned to Missouri to visit his dying father, whom he had not seen in years. The talks he had with his father and with his father’s old political cronies filled the artist with a desire to reconnect with the world of his childhood. Benton became more directly involved in politics and worked on the pieces for which he is most famous. He took pride in his Midwestern roots and began painting ordinary Americans not often shown in art. In his oeuvre, Benton showed working people in all regions of the States, including poor, rural areas. He called attention to problems that he thought all Americans should know about.

The Leader of the “Regionalist Movement”

Benton was best known to the public as the leader of the “Regionalist Movement” in American art, which opposed European modernism and focused on scenes of the American heartland; but he was also active in Social Realism, American Modernism, and Synchromism.
In 1930, Benton produced an enormous mural program, America Today, which received a great deal of attention. In 1932, he painted The Arts of Life in America, a set of large murals for an early site of the Whitney Museum of American Art. Major panels include Arts of the City, Arts of the West, Arts of the South and Indian Arts. In 1953 five of the panels were purchased by the New Britain Museum of American Art in Connecticut, and have since been displayed there.
In 1934, Benton was featured on one of the earliest color covers of Time magazine. Benton’s work was featured along with that of fellow Midwesterners Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry in an article entitled “The U.S. Scene”. The trio was featured as the new heroes of American art, and Regionalism was described as a significant art movement.

In September of 1935, Benton moved to Kansas City, Missouri. He lived there and worked in his studio until his death on January 19, 1975.

YearName of the exhibitionMuseum/GallerySolo/Group
2015Self: Portraits of Artists in Their AbsenceNational Academy Museum and School of Fine Arts, Upper East Side, NY, USAGroup
2015Modernism Made in New MexicoGeorgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NMGroup
2015Over Life’s Waters: The Coastal Art Collection of Charles and Irene HammNew Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, USAGroup
2014At First Sight: Collecting the American WatercolorCrystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, USAGroup
2014Real/SurrealMadison Museum of Contemporary Art, Madison, USAGroup
2014Reflections of American Life: 100 Years of PrintsGeorge Krevsky Gallery, Union Square, San Francisco, USAGroup
2014The Richman Gifts: American Impressionism and RealismNorton Museum of Art, West Palm Beach, USAGroup
2014A Dozen RosesSpanierman Gallery, NY, USAGroup
2014No Place Like Home: American Scene Painting in the Sinquefield CollectionAmon Carter Museum, Ft. Worth, USAGroup
2014Selected Works by Gallery Artists for American WeekThe Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, USAGroup
2014Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012El Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, USAGroup
2014Glass Today: 21st Century InnovationsNew Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, USAGroup
2014Real/Surreal: Selections from the Whitney Museum of American ArtFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNGroup
2014Works on Paper: Selections from the PMA Permanent CollectionPensacola Museum of Art, Pensacola, USAGroup
2014Holiday DecoratingNew Britain Museum of American Art, New Britain, USAGroup
2014Thomas Hart Benton's America Today Mural RediscoveredThe Metropolitan Museum of Art, Upper East Side, NY, USASolo
2013Reunion: Highlights of the CollectionTaubman Museum of Art, Roanoke, USAGroup
2013Telling American History: Realism from the Print Collection of Dr. Dorrance T. KellyBruce Museum, Greenwich, USAGroup
2013Discovering the American Modern 1907-1936: The King CollectionEl Paso Museum of Art, El Paso, USAGroup
201320th century American PrintmakersDavidson Galleries, Seattle, USAGroup
2013Thomas Hart Benton: Lonesome RoadAlan Avery Art Company, Atlanta, USASolo
2012African Americans and the American Scene, 1929-1945Museum of Art, Williams College, Williamstown, USAGroup
2012Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesDallas Museum of Art, Dallas Arts District, Dallas, USAGroup
2012Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesCleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland, USAGroup
2012Crosscurrents: A Treasury Through TimeACA Galleries, Chelsea, NY, USAGroup
2011American Masterpieces from the Batten CollectionThe Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, USAGroup
2011Youth and Beauty: Art of the American TwentiesBrooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY, USAGroup
2011A Singular Vision: Recent Gifts from the Freundlich CollectionSamuel P. Harn Museum of Art, University of Florida, Gainesville, USAGroup
2010From Whistler to Warhol: Modernism on PaperMuseum of Fine Arts, Saint Petersburg, Florida, USAGroup
2010Ida Kay Greathouse: A TributeFrye Art Museum, Seatlle, USAGroup
2010Reflections: Paintings of Florida, 1865-1965The Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, USAGroup
2010American Moderns on Paper: Masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of ArtThe Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, USAGroup
2010Hidden in Plain Sight: Art Treasures from Regional CollectionsErie Art Museum, Erie, USAGroup
2010A Treasury of American Prints from the Gilcrease CollectionGilcrease Museum, Tulsa, USAGroup
2009After Many Springs: Regionalism, Modernism & the MidwestDes Moines Art Center, Des Moines, USAGroup
2009Modernist Art From Southern CollectionsValley House Gallery & Sculpture Garden, Dallas, USAGroup
2009Philip Koch: Unbroken Thread: Nature Paintings and the American ImaginationCape Cod Museum of Art, Dennis Port, USAGroup
2009American Scenes: Art from the Depression Era in the High Museum CollectionHigh Museum of Art, Atlanta, USAGroup
2009The American Scene: Prints from Hopper to PollockThe Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, UKGroup
2009Open Roads and Bedside Tables: American Modernism in The Frye CollectionFrye Art Museum, Seatlle, USAGroup
2009Thomas Hart Benton in Story and SongFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNSolo
2008Paradigms and the Unexpected: Modern and Contemporary Art from the Shey CollectionSamuel P. Harn Museum of Art, Gainesville, FLGroup
2008Thomas Hart BentonThe Appleton Museum of Art, Ocala, USASolo
2008American ModernFundacion Joan Miro, Barcelona, SpainGroup
2007ModernismsWhitney Museumof Art, New YorkGroup
2007Leaving a Mark: The Winston and Ada Eason CollectionOklahoma City Museum of Art, Oklahoma City, OKGroup
2006The John and Mary Lou Pacton CollectionNevada Museum of Art NMA, Reno, NVGroup
2006A Celebration of New YorksGeorgie O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NMGroup
2004Spirit of a NationFrist Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNGroup
2004Coming HomeFirst Center for the Visual Arts, Nashville, TNGroup
2003Gadgets and GizmosArizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZGroup
2003Bridging the Border: Shared Themes in Mexican and US Art 1900-1950Davis Museum and Cultural Center-Wellesley College, Wellesley, MAGroup
2002The History of American PrintmakingArizona State University Art Museum, Tempe, AZGroup
2001Art for the Masses-Associated American Artist PrintsTacoma Art Museum, Tacoma, WAGroup
2001Past Present Future-Notions of Time in Twentieth-Century ArtJack S. Blanton Museum of Art, Austin, TXGroup
2001Eye of ModernismGeorgia O'Keeffe Museum, Santa Fe, NMGroup
2000Elements of the north American Landscape, Works on PaperAMAM, The Allen Memorial Art Museum, Oberlin, OHGroup
1999America at Work 1945Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KYGroup