Thomas Hart Benton
1889 – 1975
Thomas Hart Benton (1889 – 1975) was an American regionalist painter who was active and lived in Missouri, Massachusetts, Kansas and New York. Benton is recognized as one of the most important painters of the American Scene movement, having largely developed the style with which Regionalist painting is frequently associated. Having studied both at the Art institute of Chicago, and in Paris at the Académie Julian. During his education in Paris he devoted much of his time to studying at the Louvre. Here, he developed an affinity for the works of El Greco, whose influence is visible in the compositional strategies of Much of Benton’s work. After returning to the United States Benton enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served at the Norfolk Naval Base in Virginia where he spent much of his off duty time studying American History and sketching his surroundings. It was this period that inspired his series of works, The American Historical Epic, which he created between 1919 and 1924. It was in this body of work that the style Benton is known for first emerged. Besides his numerous works on canvas and paper, Benton created a number of large-scale murals, which were commissioned widely by public and private institutions alike. Thomas Hart Benton is also remembered as being an early professor of the Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock.
During his lifetime Benton’s work was met with a great deal of national success, and exhibited widely. Today, his work is featured in a number of public and private collections both domestically and abroad, including: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum. In addition, his murals are on permanent exhibition at the Missouri State Capitol, the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, the New Britain Museum of American Art, Lincoln University, the Harry S. Truman Library, the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.