Published: March 2, 2010
On January 29, the Cape Cod Museum of Art purchased a Thomas Hart Benton lithograph, “Island Hay,” making it the first piece of art the museum has purchased with the Eleanor Ferri Jones Acquisition Fund, which includes monies raised specifically for the acquisition of artwork. “Island Hay” is now on view and will remain on exhibition for the foreseeable future.
Thomas Hart Benton was an important realist painter of the regional school, a muralist, printmaker, teacher and writer. Born in Missouri on April 15, 1889, he was named for his grandfather, Missouri’s first United States senator. His father, a United States attorney under President Grover Cleveland, served in the House of Representatives during the McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt administrations.
Benton studied at Chicago’s Art Institute during 1907 and 1908; then lived in Paris for three years where he studied at the Academie Julian. Artistically, he ultimately created a style of his own, addressing subject matter that was distinctively American. Considered one of the most accomplished muralists of the 1930s, he was once described as “the best damned painter in America” by fellow Missourian President Harry Truman.
When he returned from Europe, Benton lived and worked in New York City for 20 years, also establishing a home and studio on Martha’s Vineyard, where he painted in the summers for the remainder of his life. From 1926 to 1935, he taught at the Arts Students League and became a major influence on a young Jackson Pollock. Benton, a prolific lithographer, completed 80 lithographs between 1929 and 1945.
Benton died in 1975 in Kansas City, Mo., where he had lived and painted for 40 years and was the director of painting at the Kansas City Art Institute.
Cape Cod Museum of Art is off Route 6A, 60 Hope Lane. For information, 508-385-4477 or www.ccmoa.org .
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