Recently I had the pleasure to watch Thomas Hart Benton, a 1989 documentary by Ken Burns. This fascinating introduction to the artist’s complicated and dynamic personality inspired me to pay a visit to the Benton mural, America Today, now residing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The mural, a series of ten panels originally commissioned by the New School for Social Research in 1930, was sold to AXA Equities in 1984, and then given to the Met in 2012. You can watch a video about the Met’s acquisition here.
From a technical point of view the mural is impressive, especially when you consider that it was designed in just six months, and painted in only three. The compositions are vibrant and electric, crammed with animated scenes of human figures and machinery in perpetual motion. It’s fun to inspect every little scene and try to figure out what's going on in them. You can go and look for yourself at the Metropolitan Museum's slideshow.
It's Alive, It's Alive!
The Soft, Gooey Center
The book has loads of large color plates, and is an interesting read. It explains in detail just how complex a painter and human being Thomas Hart Benton was. So I recommend checking out the mural, the book and the DVD even if, like me, Benton didn't make your top ten list of favorite painters.