Thomas Hart Benton
Achelous and Hercules 1947
62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in
Owned by the Smithsonian
My own paintings have long spoken an American visual language. I have visited and painted at least one painting from all fifty states. I have always followed other artists who have painted where they come from. My favorite artist is Edward Hopper who painted where he lived, especially in New York City and Cape Cod and where he visited. However, though he lived in Paris, as many of the artists in his era did, he never produced his most important work there.
Thomas Hart Benton was an artist born at the end of the 19th century in Missouri and like Hopper, moved to Paris to study art. After a stint in New York City he returned to Missouri and never lived anywhere else. Unlike Hopper his most famous works in painting were murals which are permanently mounted in public buildings, the most famous of which are at Indiana University and at the Missouri State House in Jefferson City. He painted murals at the Truman library in Independence, striking up a friendship with the former President in the last years of his life. His last major mural was commissioned by the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville.
Another famous regionalist is Grant Wood, who did almost all of his most major work in Iowa. His most famous work is a painting called American Gothic, arguably the most iconic painted image in American history. Both Wood and Benton painted American labor, workers. Wood particularly painted farmers and the two figures in American Gothic express the anxiety of farming during the dust bowl. Both did very prominent work in the thirties, during the Great Depression.
As I go to visit these murals I will be doing my own work and seeing regional museums. You can see the work in the States series at karenstinnett.com by clicking the States check box on The Work page