Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975)
Signed, dated, and inscribed "Benton/Oct. '44/Sen. Clyde Vernon Ratcliff/Tensas Parish/La./31st senatorial district" l.r.
Ink, pencil, and wash on paper, sight size 15 3/4 x 12 1/2 in. (40.0 x 31.7 cm), framed.
Condition: Stains u.l. and center, not examined out of frame.
Provenance: Thomas Hart Benton and Rita Benton; Fred W. McCraw (purchased from the latter, 1968); O'Leary-Jacobson Gallery, Torrington, Connecticut; to the current private collection, Connecticut.
Literature: Thomas Hart Benton, Benton Drawings: A Collection of Drawings by Thomas Hart Benton (Columbia, Missouri: University of Missouri Press, 1968), illustrated p. 59.
N.B. Sponsored by Abbott Laboratories, a Chicago-based pharmaceutical and medical supply company, Thomas Hart Benton served as a commissioned artist-correspondent in the U.S. Navy during World War II. In 1944, Benton documented the construction of troop ships in Pittsburgh, and then accompanied the ships down the Ohio, Missouri, and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans, where they joined the fleet. In New Orleans he made paintings of a variety of subjects, including oil refineries, rice fields, and the harvesting of sugarcane, and completed this drawing of a Decmocratic Senator from Louisiana, Clyde Vernon Ratcliff. Ratcliff, an influential plantation owner with extensive family connections throughout the area, may have helped Benton gain access to rice and sugarcane fields to make preparatory drawings for his paintings. Benton himself came from a family of southern Democrat politicians–his great-uncle had been Missouri's first senator, and his father a congressional representative–so he and Ratcliff may have formed a particular kinship.
We would like to thank Dr. Henry Adams, Ruth Coulter Heede Professor of Art History, Case Western Reserve University, for his kind assistance with cataloging this lot.
Documents regarding the sales of the drawing from the artist through to the current private collection accompany the lot.
Out of the frame the sheet is 16 3/4 x 13 3/4 inches, and is hinged to the backing mat along the top edge. There are also some paler stains (both recto and verso) and there are pencil annotations to the verso.
Frame dimensions: 26 x 22 x 3/4 in. (under Plexiglas)
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