Monday, January 19, 2009

El Greco meets Norman Rockwell

Spring on the Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton 1945

I've always admired the work of the American painter Thomas Hart Benton. He painted the gaunt and hungry American farmers and landscapes of the Midwest during the 1920’s through1940’s. The figures are beautifully painted with an unsentimental dignity - a cross between Norman Rockwell and the renaissance painter El Greco.

Bootleggers, Thomas Hart Benton 1927

It seems like Benton was not much admired in the art world. I don’t quite follow the politics, but apparently Benton hated the whole New York art scene. He was a self-declared “enemy of modernism”; in 1941 Time magazine referred to him as "tough, swart little Missouri Painter". (I think this translates to “yokel pain-in-the-ass”).

Agony of the garden, El Greco 1590
© 2008 Raoul Rubin