Frye Art Museum

photo by Jill Berarducci

Seattle, Washington



On the Road with Thomas Hart Benton

April 29 - June 25, 2000


An outspoken art personality of his time, artist Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was also a premier American teacher, critic, painter, muralist, printmaker, illustrator, and writer. For the first time in Seattle, the collected works from the artist's estate in Kansas City will be exhibited at the Frye Art Museum, beginning April 29, 2000.

Often identified as a "regionalist" artist, Benton was selected to be the first artist featured on the cover of Time, making him one of the most recognized artists in America in the 1930s.

"On the Road with Thomas Hart Benton" illustrates how travel produced some of the greatest works of art in Benton's long career. From the Ozarks to the Appalachians and the Rockies, throughout the South, and into the West, Benton sketched and painted America in transition. Traveling alone, by foot, and automobile, carrying little more than pencils and sketchbooks, Benton explored remote regions of America in the early 20th century. (left: Plowing It Under, 1934, oil on pre-primed linen, 19 1/2 x 24 inches)

In his drawings, Benton is an artist and historian, an acute observer who was also the proud descendant of a conservative political family, closely tied to the advancement of the frontier and the settlement of the West. He witnessed America's transition from a rural, agricultural nation at the turn of the century to an urban, industrialized world power.

Beginning in the 1920s. Benton used drawing to chronicle his travels. sketching and recording the derails of changing American life as he encountered it on the back roads of America. Inspired by early campaign travels in Missouri with his father M.E. Benton, who was elected to Congress as a Populist in 1897, Benton set out to capture the essence of contemporary America.

The exhibition is on loan through Lyman Field and the United Missouri Bank of Kansas City, co-trustees of the Thomas Hart Benton and Rita P. Benton Testamentary Trusts and presented by the Frye Art Museum with the assistance of Smith Kramer, Inc., Kansas City, Missouri.

Read our prior articles concerning this traveling exhibition:

If you are interested in "American Scene" art of the 1930s and 40s you may enjoy the WPA Period Print Collection Directory from the University of Montana. See also an article on the Florida State University website.

More web resources on Benton:

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Read more in Resource Library Magazine about the Frye Art Museum.

For further biographical information please see America's Distinguished Artists, a national registry of historic artists.

Please click on thumbnail images bordered by a red line to see enlargements.

rev. 1/15/11

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