Thomas Hart Benton was an American painter and muralist born in Neosho Missouri on April 15, 1889. Benton died on January 19, 1975. He is known for being part of a movement of art known as Regionalism. Regionalism was a movement that was naturalistic in style and stressed the idea of painting what you know. For instance, if you are from a farming community, then paint subjects that would be associated with that farming community.
The Meeting is an image that depicts what could be described as a small town meeting. There is a man speaking to a small gathering of listeners. Men, women, and children are all represented. The style of the piece is naturalistic to a certain degree, although the figures are stylized and cartoonish. The listeners seem to be tired or bored; they don’t seem to be engaged with the speaker. I could imagine this actually happening in a small town meeting. This lithograph can be tied into the Regionalist movement because it effectively describes an event that could be found in any small town. Benton himself was from a small town, so this would be something he was familiar with.
Benton rejected “modernism” because he himself had not been accepted into the circle of modern artists. However, Regionalism as a whole fits into the period of modernism because it portrayed things as they were; in this lithograph, for example, Benton didn’t try to sugar coat the truth. In this way I believe his art could be considered to be seeking authenticity, which is a key component of modernism. I believe that this lithograph is a great part of OSU’s art collection. An artist that was born not too far from here drew it, and it depicts an event that could have happened in a town like Stillwater. In a way, it connects us directly to the modernist period.
Stephanie Southern was a student in ART 3683: History of 20th Century Art in Fall 2010.