Thomas Hart Benton
Birth Date: April 15, 1889
Death Date: January 19, 1975
Artist Gallery
Thomas Hart Benton was an artist whose images express his deepest feelings about American life and history, about love, family and religion. Benton’s father, Maecenas Eason Benton, a U. S. Congressman, did not want him to become an artist. “Dad was profoundly prejudiced against artists, and with some reason”, Benton recalled. “The only ones he had ever come across were the mincing, bootlicking portrait painters…who hung around the skirts of women at receptions. Dad was utterly contemptuous of them and labeled them promptly as pimps”. Lizzie Wise, Benton’s mother was born to a family of musicians in Waxahachie, Texas. She recognized her son’s talent and prevailing against her husband’s wishes, enrolled Tom in art school. Benton attended art classes at the Corcoran Gallery of Art as a high school student and later studied at the Western Military Academy and The Chicago Art Institute. As a youth studying painting in Chicago and then Paris he developed the vision and technique so much admired in his work. As a teacher (of Jackson Pollock and Clyde Singer, among others) in New York, Benton was steeped in the rich creative atmosphere of the modern movement. In the mid-twenties he embarked on a series of sketching expeditions, a back-to-the-roots ramble that led him to his true subject: the life, people, and history of the American Scene. He believed that the American people needed to be reminded of their strengths. The Great Depression emphasized the importance of his work and a joint exhibition catapulted Benton, Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry to fame as regionalist painters in 1934.