Thomas Hart Benton

born Neosho, MO 1889-died 1975 Kansas City, MO
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Thomas Hart Benton seated in front of History of New York , © Peter A. Juley & Son Collection, Smithsonian American Art Museum J0001255
Also known as
  • Tom Benton
  • Thomas H. Benton
Neosho, Missouri, United States
Kansas City, Missouri, United States
Active in
  • New York, New York, United States

An American scene painter who, along with John Steuart Curry and Grant Wood, was a leading regionalist painter of the 1930s. Well known for his murals and portraits depicting everyday life, particularly in the Midwest, Benton authored two autobiographies, An Artist in America (1937) and An American in Art (1969).

Joan Stahl American Artists in Photographic Portraits from the Peter A. Juley & Son Collection (Washington, D.C. and Mineola, New York: National Museum of American Art and Dover Publications, Inc., 1995)

Artist Biography

Benton's idiom was essentially political and rhetorical, the painterly equivalent of the country stump speeches that were a Benton family tradition. The artist vividly recalled accompanying his father, Maecenas E. Benton—a four-term U.S. congressman, on campaigns through rural Missouri. Young Tom Benton grew up with an instinct for constituencies that led him to assess art on the basis of its audience appeal. His own art, after the experiments with abstraction, was high-spirited entertainment designed to catch and hold an audience with a political message neatly bracketed between humor and local color.

Elizabeth Broun "Thomas Hart Benton: A Politician in Art," Smithsonian Studies in American Art Spring 1987, p. 61



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Artist to Artist
October 1, 2021May 18, 2025
Artist to Artist features paired artworks, each representing two figures whose trajectories intersected at a creatively crucial moment, whether as student and teacher, professional allies, or friends.

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Scenes of American Life: Treasures from the Smithsonian American Art Museum
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