Thomas Hart Benton

About Artist: Thomas Hart Benton is perhaps the best known muralist associated with the American Scene Painting movement of the 1930s. Benton's vivid, stylized portrayal of pre-industrial agrarian life and his later emphasis on the plight of the working class in the post-Depression era earned him a reputation as a social activist, and he gained publicity through public works projects. Within the broad American Scene Painting Movement, Benton is most closely associated with Regionalism a movement that rejected modernism in favor of a naturalistic and representational style. Regionalism gained recognition through public art works in highly visible locations such as banks, post offices, and political buildings. The Indiana Murals, Benton's most well-known and most controversial work, is exemplary of both the Regionalist style of painting and focus on social commentary. As part of the state of Indiana's contribution to the 1933 Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago, Illinois, the Indiana Murals depict the oppressed farmers, Ku Klux Klan members, and big business as negative actors in society. After Benton's success with the Indiana Murals, he took a teaching position at the Kansas City Art Institute. For the rest of his career, Benton remained in the Midwest and focused on public murals, leaving a legacy that captured the character of the collision between agrarian life and industrialization in 1930s America.

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