Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton was born in 1889 in Neosho, Missouri, the son of a congressman.  He studied painting in Chicago and Paris, where he learned traditional Academic techniques, but he dabbled in the Impressionist style, and later, after his 1912 return to the States, in abstraction.  While the up-and-coming modernist movement saw art as its own pursuit, disassociated from its subject, Benton travelled the breadth of the country and saw the value in depicting ordinary people and activities.  He received a number of mural commissions, and used them to portray everyday people—construction workers, farmers, commuters.  Benton became one of the premier Regionalists, the American artists who created realistic scenes of rural and small-town life in the 1930s.  He taught and painted in New York City until 1935, when he moved to Kansas City, in part because he could not find enough common ground with critics and fellow artists in New York.  He continued to paint and make prints, and his reputation as a great American artist grew, although New York critics remained indifferent.  He died in 1975.