Monday, July 11, 2011

Thomas Hart Benton

I don't know who Mr Benton is and I don't know what this painting is all about but I like it very much and I think it is time to take my Detective Hat and do a little bit of research.
(Playing music for a waiting room...)

So Mr Benton is dead. Well I figured as much.
Tommy for the intimate or Thomas Hart Benton (April 15, 1889 – January 19, 1975) was an American painter and muralist. On the picture they got out of him in wiki, he does look a little bit like Columbo with a bushy moustache.

Why is it called "People of Chilmark"? I am not sure. I did "google" the title but no explanation came up. Nevertheless this shall not stop me in knowing who Tommy was.

There aren't many artists who can say that they worked during the war as a camoufleur.
According to Wiki,  "During the First World War, Benton had to draw camouflaged ships that came into Norfolk harbor. His work was required for several reasons: to ensure that U.S. ship painters were correctly applying the camouflage schemes, to aid in identifying U.S. ships that might later be lost, and to have records of the ship camouflage of other Allied navies. In his own words, the work that he did in the Navy “was the most important thing, so far, I had ever done for myself as an artist."

In the early 1920s, Benton declared himself an "enemy of modernism"; he began the naturalistic and representational work today known as Regionalism
Benton also taught at the Art Students League of New York from 1926 to 1935 and at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1935 to 1941 and surprise, surprise, his most famous student was Jackson Pollock.

About his art,  his figures always appear soft and fluid. There is a definite cartoon-like feel to his style and the fact that he worked as a cartoonist for a newspaper in Joplin, Missouri, can probably explain it.

About this painting, Benton achieves a triangle of light using a palette of lighter tones to make the viewer sail through the darkest tones.
Your eye is first drawn to the main character in the middle wearing a yellow jumpsuit then he travels to the left looking for something equally light and finds it in the rowing man with a blue short then your eye drifts to the bottom part of the painting where a man with an orange bathing cap is turning his back on us.

And then the eye goes for a second round, acknowledging the background and the other darker painted characters.
The style is emphasised with a geometrical pattern surrounding an aquatic theme which we might never understand the purpose. But I secretly hope someone will read this post and come forth with an explanation.

Any way, I thoroughly enjoyed discovering this painting and his master, so thank you Tess for sharing this with us.

This prompt was brought to you thanks to Magpie tales. Magpie tales' blog is dedicated to the enjoyment of poets and writers, for the purpose of honing their craft, sharing it with like-minded bloggers, and keeping their muses alive and well.


  1. As I so often say "I learn so much from bloggng!' And your entry is a prime example of education-through-blog. It should be introduced into schools!

  2. Benton is one of my faves. Glad you enjoyed getting to know him.

  3. I enjoyed the Art History lesson. Thanks :)