In this episode of the PEMcast, we examine the life of one of America’s most famous 20th century artists, who you may not have even heard of. We recently surveyed museum-goers about Thomas Hart Benton. Only a quarter knew who he was. We set out to change this…starting behind the scenes as the exhibition American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood is being installed, before embarking on an audio journey that spans from Martha’s Vineyard to Hollywood. We explore the life and legacy of a man who loved travel, old world artistic techniques and the movies.
Austen Barron Bailly, the exhibition’s lead curator, wrote her dissertation on Benton and brought this exhibition to us when she came to PEM in 2013.
Art conservator Mary Schafer accompanied some of the paintings from her museum, the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City.
Rob Lazebnik, a writer and producer for The Simpsons, is a Benton fan. Lazebnik owns a Benton drawing of a fat cat Hollywood executive that perfectly depicts the kind of people to avoid in Hollywood. The piece is part of our exhibition. Catch Lazebnik’s great humor pieces in the Wall Street Journal, like this essay called A message for the Class of 2013.
Benton mentored Jackson Pollock, who later ushered in abstract expressionism.
For more on Benton, see a Connected post written by the artist’s daughter, Jessie Benton.
It’s a loving tribute to her father and a look back at the Hollywood stars she met during Benton’s interesting career. Jessie Benton says the time spent every summer for 50 years in Martha’s Vineyard was her favorite.
American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood is at PEM through September 7. It then travels to the The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, the Amon Carter Museum of American Art in Fort Worth and the Milwaukee Art Museum.
We’re pleased to share that we’ve recently won the silver Muse Award from the American Alliance of Museums for the PEMcast. The judges commended us on conveying the warmth and vibrant curiosity of PEM’s staff, while linking the museum and our offerings to broader cultural issues. Thanks for listening.
Music for this episode:
“The Sun is Scheduled to Come Out Tomorrow” by Chris Zabriskie
“Schwäne” by Mistaa
Support artists like Mistaa and Chris Zabriskie by supporting the 2015 Open Music Contest and the Free Music Archive