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collections > permanent collection > prints >THomas hart benton

Thomas Hart Benton
(American, 1889-1975)
Cradling Wheat, 1939
Lithograph, 9 3/4" x 12”
Margery Wolf-Kuhn Art Acquisition Endowment Fund (86.042)

Thomas Hart Benton was a leader of the American Scene movement of the 1930s.  Primarily a painter and muralist, Benton was also noted for his lithographs, most of which celebrate the everyday life of rural America.  Cradling Wheat depicts a harvesting scene in the hills of eastern Tennessee and is related to a painting of the same title now in the Saint Louis Art Museum.  Typical of Benton’s work, the figures and landscape are carefully distorted to lend expressive power to the composition.

The son of a Missouri congressman, Benton first studied art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Moving on to Chicago and Paris, Benton ultimately settled in New York City, where he participated in the contemporary art scene and began work on his first major project, a mural titled The American Historical Epic.  Other nationalist murals followed, and by the early 1930s, Benton had achieved fame not only as a muralist, but as a spokesperson of “native” art.  Abandoning New York for Kansas City in 1935, the artist spent the remainder of his career teaching, painting, and working on mural projects for various Midwestern institutions.