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Thomas Hart Benton's America Today Cover

"Thomas Hart Benton's America Today"

Griffey, Randall R., Elizabeth Mankin Kornhauser, and Stephanie L. Herdrich with contribution from Shawn Digney-Peer and Cynthia Moyer
48 pages
61 illustrations
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Thomas Hart Benton is often recognized as the leader of the 1930s movement known as Regionalism, which celebrated rural life in the United States. However, he lived and worked primarily in New York from 1912 to 1935, one of the most vibrant and dynamic periods in the city’s history. It was also a critical time for Benton’s artistic development, as he gradually established and set on the course that would define his career, one characterized by a passionate commitment to public art, populist subject matter, and a distinctively expressive figurative style rooted predominantly in European Mannerism.

The pinnacle of Benton’s New York years was the mural cycle he painted for the newly erected headquarters of the New School for Social Research at 66 West 12th Street, which opened to the public in January 1931. Called America Today, the mural — his first significant commission for an institution — raised Benton’s artistic stature not only in New York, but also nationwide, setting the stage for his appearance in December 1934 on the cover of Time magazine, the first time an artist was accorded that honor.

This Bulletin reveals the many remarkable stories that America Today has to tell and presents new discoveries about Benton’s epic cycle. The essay and entries contained in these pages elucidate the mural’s rich content, particularly Benton’s celebration of the Machine Age and American “progress” in the 1920s.

The New School for Social Research, Walker Evans  American, Gelatin silver print
Walker Evans
ca. 1930
Aeroplane Synchromy in Yellow-Orange, Stanton Macdonald-Wright  American, Oil on canvas
Stanton Macdonald-Wright
Cotton Pickers, Georgia, Thomas Hart Benton  American, Tempera and oil on canvas
Thomas Hart Benton
Icarus, Empire State Building, Lewis Hine  American, Gelatin silver print
Lewis Hine
Moses Striking the Rock, Abraham Bloemaert  Netherlandish, Oil on canvas
Abraham Bloemaert
America Today, Thomas Hart Benton  American, Ten panels: Egg tempera with oil glazing over Permalba on a gesso ground on linen mounted to wood panels with a honeycomb interior
Thomas Hart Benton

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