Achelous and Hercules

  • Thomas Hart Benton, Achelous and Hercules, 1947, tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program, 1985.2

Publication Label

Intense colors and writhing forms evoke the contest of muscle and will between Hercules and Achelous, the Greek god who ruled the rivers. In flood season, Achelous took on the form of an angry bull, tearing new channels through the earth with his horns. Hercules defeated him by tearing off one horn, which became nature's cornucopia, or horn of plenty. Thomas Hart Benton saw the legend as a parable of his beloved Midwest. The Army Corps of Engineers had begun efforts to control the Missouri River — and Benton imagined a future when the waterway was tamed and the earth swelled with robust harvests.

Smithsonian American Art Museum: Commemorative Guide. Nashville, TN: Beckon Books, 2015.

Title
Achelous and Hercules
Artist
Date
1947
On View
Dimensions
62 7/8 x 264 1/8 in. (159.6 x 671.0 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Allied Stores Corporation, and museum purchase through the Smithsonian Institution Collections Acquisition Program

Mediums
Mediums Description
tempera and oil on canvas mounted on plywood
Classifications
Highlights
Keywords
  • Figure group
  • Animal – cattle
  • Mythology – classical – Achelous
  • Mythology – classical – Hercules
  • Landscape – river
Object Number
1985.2
Palette
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI

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