Thomas Hart Benton

artist artwork
Thomas Hart Benton, one of the most influential personages of American Regionalism, was born in 1889 in Neosho, MI.He came from a long lineage of well to do politicians, and broke the tradition when in 1905 he dropped out of high school to become a cartoonist for the Joplin American.Unlike some of his Regionalist colleagues, Benton received extensive training as an artist. From 1906-1907 Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and in 1908 left the U.S. to enroll in the Academie Julien in Paris. Until 1911, Benton studied in Paris and forged friendships with ascendant artists such as Diego Rivera, John Marin, Morgan Russell as well as Stanton MacDonald-Wright, the founder of the Synchronist movement, whose influence is reflected in Bentonís early work.

Upon returning to the United States, Benton spent two years in the Navy and then settled in New York City. He developed his style as a proclaimed enemy of modernism and aligned himself with the Regionalist vision. The subjects of his paintings, lithographs, and prints revolved around Mid-western life, and more importantly manís struggle against technology and modernization. Benton's interpretation of these subjects diverged greatly from fellow Regionalist Grant Woodís hard-edged realism. Perhaps due to his traditional European art education, Benton rejected the elements of Cubism and modernism. Many of his paintings display a rich, bold palette, curvaceous line and vigorous brushwork similar to Baroque and Romantic styles.

After establishing himself as a painter, Benton exhibited with Mexican social realist painter, Jose Clemente Orozco in 1928.In 1929, he adopted the lithograph as an artistic medium with "The Station" the first of many acclaimed and popular prints. In 1932 he was commissioned to paint a mural for Indiana Hall at the Chicago World Fair. Benton settled with his wife in Kansas City in 1935 after being offered a job teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute. He went on to illustrate a copy of John Steinbeck's, "Grapes of Wrath," collaborate with Georges Schreiber on a series of paintings as a response to the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and influence several of his well known students including Jackson Pollock, Aaron Pyle, and Bill Hammond.

Constantly active in the art world, Benton died in 1975 in his Kansas City studio after living a long, celebrated life as a great American Regionalist.