The Art of Politics: Thomas Hart Benton

The Strike (1933)

Thomas Hart Benton was born on April 15, 1889 in Neosho, Missouri. He spent most of his childhood in boarding schools and in Washington, D.C. and landed his first job as a cartoonist for the Joplin American in Missouri. Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago, resided briefly in Paris and New York City, then settled in Kansas City, working as an instructor of drawing/painting at the Kansas City Art Institute. His most famous pupil was the Abstract Expressionist Jackson Pollock; his well known Nebraska students at the Institute were Aaron Pyle and Bill Hammond.
Benton was part of the Regionalist movement and is well known for his mural paintings that depict commmon everyday scenes of Midwestern life. The figures in his works often appear cartoon-like through the way he distorts the bone and muscular structure of their faces. His most famous murals are located in the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City and in the Truman Library in Independence. Benton died January 19, 1975 in his studio.


Roadkill said...

I always appreciated Benton's depiction of women - strong yet alluring.

Anonymous said...

Thomas Hart Benton was indeed a complex character as evidenced by the following quote. "Between the forces of the narrowly conservative and the doctrinaire radical, another influential force thrives in the city. This last is even more completely withdrawn from the temper of America than either of the others. . . . It comes from the concentrated flow of aesthetic-minded homosexuals into the various fields of artistic practice. Aestheticism in its more fragile forms seems always to accompany sexual aberration when that is represented by the simple predominance of feminine characteristics rather than the cultivated vices of bisexualism. In the case of the latter, male sexual buffooneries, accompanied by a more or less open sadism, offset any exaggerated artistic delicacy. But in the homosexual circles of artistic New York there are few who, like the gentleman in the Klondike poem, are ready to jump anything from a steer to a kitchen mechanic. Our New York aberrants are, for the most part, of the gentle feminine type with predilections for the curving wrist and outthrust hip. "
More on Benton from the "socialist" National Endowment on the Humanities

Sunny Badger said...


Thanks for the link. Interesting piece. Although I'm interested in what makes an artist tick, I don't always connect the dots between what makes an artist tick and the end results of the artist's product.

The linked article stated "...reveling in his hard-drinking, tough-guy persona, Benton frequently attacked the manhood of people with whom he disagreed."

Sounds like Benton would make a good conservative, radio talk show host.