Thomas Hart BentonU.S. 1889-1975
Spring Storm 88.0012
The composition in this painting presented many of the juxtapositions (violence and calm, desolation and fertility) that Tomas Hart Benton favored. It also allowed him to depict nature sculpturally, using his favorite formal principle of the "bulge and hollow," rhythmically distorting structures to achieve a serpentine line, the line favored by 16th-century Mannerist painters. These lines draw our attention to the center of the composition, to the bolt of lightening that has startled the horse. It is not painted on the surface, but carved into it, through paint, down to the composition board beneath. In 1933, Kansas journalist Maynard Walker mounted an exhibition of thirty some paintings at the Kansas City Art Institute with the title, "American Painting Since Whistler." Among the artists in the exhibition were three who already had modest reputations, but were about to be catapulted into iconic status, Grant Wood, John Steuart Curry, and Thomas Hart Benton. Walker's promotion of the "movement" and the artists as "regionalists" and painters of "real American art" came to the attention of Henry Luce, editor at Time magazine. Luce put a self-portrait of Benton on the cover of the December 24, 1934 issue, and included the first color reproductions of paintings that Time had ever run. Benton, Curry Wood, and Charles Burchfield were featured along with Reginald Marsh, who, Time said, were restoring American values through their art in the face of the foreign variety, modernism. Grant Wood, as it turned out, was the only one of the regionalist triumvirate to actually settle in the Midwest. Benton was from Missouri, but his studio was in New York for a time, Curry's in Connecticut.
BACK TO COLLECTION