Featured Art from the Permanent Collection

Fire in the Barnyard
by Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton became identified with the type of art called Regionalism that depicted rural subjects. Sculptural forms in his paintings and lithographs were always dynamic, perhaps an influence from his early association with modern art movements, especially the Synchronists, during his studies in Europe. This dynamism combined with the careful draftsmanship he developed while an artist in the navy, led to his distinctive style of flowing shapes.

He became a well-known muralist; the first mural he did being “America Today” done for the New School for Social Research in 1930-31. A year later, he was commissioned to do the state of Indiana murals for the 1933 “Century of Progress” exposition in Chicago. Benton did not shy away from social controversy, and one of the themes in the mural was no exception. In addition to showing Indiana agriculture and industry, the murals contained parts of the state’s history that many wanted to forget – the Ku Klux Klan.

His art and reputation resulted in his picture being on the cover of Time magazine featuring a 1934 article on him, Grant Wood, and John Steuart Curry as being new heroes of American art and extolled their Regionalist outlook as producing a significant art movement.

In addition murals in many public buildings, Benton’s paintings and lithographs are in the collection of numerous Museums.