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Finally We Can Offer A Benton Original!
MAKE AN AMERICAN IMPRESSION--CALL 646-239-6142
|Western Mining Bend, 1930
Thomas Hart Benton
Ink, Water Color & Pencil
on Paper (ca. 9 X 12)
|"Ozark Autumn" brought $5,000,000 in 2015!
|Benton's drawing of a New Orleans market
brought well over $20,000 recently.
|Another mine works drawing points to
Benton's American Scene Theme.
Benton in 1958
CURATOR'S COMMENT: Benton prices are on a long-term tear higher, but we were finally able to
acquire something actually touched by the master, after having been bid beaten time after time. "Time"
magazine put Benton on its cover for December 24, 1932, and proclaimed him one of the saviors and
new heroes of American art--starting a price spiral. Now, the new installation of Benton's major American
mural series (done for the New School in the 1920's) at New York's Metropolitan Museum, which are
shown in a private room along with a movie on the masterpiece project has added new price thrust. If
you are in New York City this now permanent exhibition must not be missed--being the single most
important iconic American Art work in the city hands down! Truly stunning! So we are happy that we now
can offer an absolutely perfectly drawn "Western Mining Bend" 1930 piece in ink, pencil and watercolor,
which has only doubled every time it's been sold. Finally! Benton leads lithographers with eighty
different prints, but our (9 x 12) sketch is unique and signed (lower left). There appears to be slight
overall paper fading and minor notches along the left edge, where the sheet was removed from
Benton's sketchbook--otherwise there are no condition issues and provenance is secure. This
acquisition represents our realization of an important goal for our gallery, and though we have many
more expensive American masterpieces, owning a Benton simply matters.
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was born in Neosho, Missouri on April 15, 1889. But Benton also lived in
Paris, and New York City and later painted regularly in the summer at Martha's Vineyard off Cape Cod.
Still he is best known as a founding member of the Regionalist art movement. Benton is known for his
paintings that glorified the Midwest, starting with his "Indiana Murals" shown at the 1933 Century of
Progress exhibition, and now at Indiana University in Bloomington. Benton was named for a great uncle
and early U.S. Senator, and his father, Colonel M.E. Benton, was a Congressman for eight years, so the
future regionalist also lived in Washington D.C. He started drawing at age 17, after the family had
returned to Missouri, when he took a summer job as cartoonist on The Joplin American. In 1907-1908, he
studied with Frederick Oswald at the Art Institute of Chicago and then studied in Paris for three years
including briefly at the Academie Julian under Jean-Paul Laurens and for a longer period at the
Academie Collarossi, where he could work independently. In 1911, Benton went to New York, where he
experimented with Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and Synchromism, the last influenced by his
friend, Stanton MacDonald-Wright. He also taught at the Art Students League and became a major
influence on the style of Jackson Pollock. But increasingly Benton grew to believe that art should
express one's surroundings rather than abstract ideas and that the ordinary person most exemplified
American life. Many of these ideas he inherited from the politics of his Populist father. Finally Benton's
experience as a draftsman in the Navy from 1918-19, sparked his American Scene realist style beginning
with his circa 1921 "West Side Express," which led Alvin Johnson to commission the America Today
murals (1930-31) for the New School for Social Research in New York City.
After being ostracized by the leftist abstract expressionist New York art community, for his pro-America
politics (see his two autobiographies, An Artist in America, and An American In Art), Benton moved back
to Missouri in 1935. It didn't help that President Harry Truman said that Benton was "the best damned
painter in America." He was then commissioned to paint "A Social History of Missouri" for the state
capitol building. Benton went on to create several more iconic works of art, including "The Year of
Peril" and "Lincoln." He established a studio in Kansas City, where he painted for the next forty years
until his death at age 85. Even so, in 1957, he was commissioned by Robert Moses, chairman of the
Power Authority of New York to paint a mural at Massena on the theme of the Canadian new world
expedition of Jacques Cartier. It was during Benton's participation in a 1934 exhibition with Grant Wood
and John Steuart Curry at Ferargil Galleries in New York, that critics coined the term "American
Regionalism" for Benton's work. But his regionalism incorporated city life as well.
Benton was an admitted troll--pugnacious to the point of beligerency, of short stature and shorter
temper, especially when under the influence. His America Today mural has his likes and dislikes,
ranging from burlesque performer Peggy Reynolds, or friends of the artist, like Max Eastman, editor of
the socialist magazine The Masses vs. preacher Billy Sunday. The black construction worker in the “City
Building” scene is a composite, as the artist Reginald Marsh, who was white, posed for the body. He
loved miners, drillers, lumberjacks, steelworkers, cotton pickers, farmers, and sharecroppers--men
invoved with the land, but these extractors are in the hands of nature. Our "Western Mining Bend"
conveys the same harmony of mutual respect without fear of the EPA. It also shows Benton's fascination
with transportation--he saw America as a place of speed and movement--it comes alive in the mural. But
with most of his 4,000 almost impossible-to-collect works owned by almost every museum in America, he
was simply an artist identified by a unique style who loved his land and the people in it.