Island Hay

Island Hay
Thomas Hart Benton
April 15, 1889 - January 19, 1975
Artist Biography
Acquisition Number: 84.50
Medium: Lithograph on paper
Size: 9 3/4" x 12 1/2"
Date: 1945
Credit: Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Dustin C. Lewis in memory of Mrs. Howard C. Lewis

One of the main artists associated with the American Regionalist movement, Thomas Hart Benton depicted the realities of rural life and the pressures of industrialization. His works often feature symbols of progress such as railroads and factories, perhaps commenting on the tensions between industrialization and agricultural labor in early 20th-century American life. He favored a stylized, representational approach to painting. The majority of Benton’s lithographs were derived from his paintings and drawings, and "Island Hay" is no exception. After appearing on the cover of "TIME" magazine in 1934, Benton was approached by a fine art publishing company - Associated American Artists (AAA) - which published prints of the American scene to provide affordable art to people who may not be able to afford it otherwise. Benton painted a total of two versions of "Island Hay" in 1945 in preparation for this lithograph published by AAA. Benton was associated with AAA for most of his lithographs, and he was fairly well-involved with the process, drawing the lithograph and working with the lithographer to create the image. "Island Hay" likely depicts Henry Look's farm, a subject that Benton painted several times, which was located up the hill from his home in Martha's Vineyard. In "Island Hay," farmers use scythes to mow hay by hand rather than with a machine. Scythe cutting of hay was common at Martha’s Vineyard at the time, and is still used for the uneven fields.