Thomas Hart Benton

 

Thomas Hart Benton, Wreck of the Ole 97 Train, 1943

Thomas Hart Benton, Wreck of the Ole 97 Train, 1943

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was an American painter and muralist whose work was a part of the Regionalist art movement. Regionalism rejected Modernism and instead focused on natural depictions of the rural countryside. Other artists who worked in this movement are Grant Wood, Alexandre Hogue, and John Rogers Cox.

Working through both World War I and World War II, much of his early and mid-career work focused on social commentary relating to both the issues of the wars and racism in the South. Though he was born in Missouri, he studied both in Paris and New York to further develop his unique style. After alienating himself from the artists in New York City through his disregard for politics and from the larger art world with his “folksy” style, he returned to Missouri.

His paintings are generally colorful landscapes that involve using unnatural gradients to show depth and create a viewpoint that is slightly skewed. He was also a noted lithographer in which he employed similar handling of figures and objects. These components create playful, nearly dream-like worlds that he uses to convey his social critiques.

Ironically, his most famed student was Jackson Pollock, the founder of Abstract Expressionism, which is the antithesis of the Regionalism school.

 

For more information on Thomas Hart Benton:

PBS Profiles

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The State Historical Site of Missouri