Thomas Hart Benton, “The Meeting,” 1941

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.

Thomas Hart Benton, "The Meeting," 1941. Lithograph, Gardiner Permanent Art Collection.

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.

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About osucurator

Louise Siddons is Associate Professor of Art History at Oklahoma State University and founding curator of the Oklahoma State University Museum of Art. She maintains this blog as a record of her students' work with the Museum's permanent collection as well as more generally with topics related to museum studies.
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