Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975) Threshing
Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975)
Incised signature and date "Benton '44" l.r., inscribed "Restored by T.H. Benton
March 1965" on the reverse.
Oil on Masonite, 10 x 14 in. (25.2 x 35.3 cm), framed.
Condition: Minor scattered retouch, subtle varnish inconsistencies.
N.B. Thomas Hart Benton was born April 15, 1889, in Neosho, Missouri. The son of a congressman, Benton was named for his great uncle, a prominent U.S. Senator. In 1907, he enrolled at the Art Institute of Chicago and shortly after attended the Academie Julian in Paris. In 1911, Benton returned to the states, this time settling in New York City as an instructor at the Art Students' League, mentoring young artists including Jackson Pollack. Although he experimented in his early work with many of the modern movements and styles which were gaining popularity at the time, Benton was more interested in depicting the true spirit of American life through realism. During World War I Benton served as a naval draftsman. Benton described this period as the most formative of his career: "(It) was the most important thing that, so far, I had ever done as an artist. My interests became, in a flash, of an objective nature. The mechanical contrivances of building, the new airplanes, the blimps, the dredges, the ships of the base, because they were so interesting in themselves, tore me away from all my grooved habits. I left for good the art-for art's-sake world I had hitherto lived. (It) opened a way to a world which, always around me, I had not seen. That was the world of America." In the 1930s, along with artists Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, Benton formed the artistic movement that became known as "Regionalism." The movement sought to capture America - American life, spirit, and meaning by focusing on this county's rural landscape and laborers. Benton noted that "the reality that we, as full human beings, generally know and act upon is more complicated. It is not the reality of direct perception but that which such perception leads to. The associations attached thereto constitute what we call our knowledge of things; they are our ultimate human reality." The daily activities and seasonal rhythms of farm life dominate Benton's work. The subject of threshing wheat into grain comes up repeatedly. The Swope Art Museum's Threshing Wheat of 1938/39 (and Benton lithograph of the same year) feature many of the same qualities as the work presented here. The farmers labor below while above the streaming of wheat, and in the earlier example steam, are mimicked in the furrows below and the clouds above. This fluid style combined with vivid color has made Benton one of America's most respected artists. Today, Benton's work is included in the collection's of hundreds of museums including the Metropolitan Museum, The National Gallery, The Whitney Museum, and the Guggenheim.