Exploring Thomas Hart Benton Country


By Victoria Chick



ON BIG BLEND RADIO: Artist Victoria Chick discusses the life and art of Thomas Hart Benton, and the places you can view his work in Missouri. Listen here in the YouTube player or download the podcast on PodBean.


Approximately 2.5 hours of driving can bring you 3 days of enjoying one of the richest experiences in the Midwest.

Regionalist painter, lithographer, and muralist Thomas Hart Benton(1889 -1975 ) was a son of Missouri, and, although he studied modern art trends in Europe, spent years in New York, and was the first artist to have his picture on the cover of Time Magazine, he moved back to Missouri and made his mark on it with murals across the State and by influencing young artists through his teaching.

Start your journey in Independence, Missouri by visiting the Truman Library where Benton’s great mural “Independence and the Opening of the West” covers one of the main interior walls. The Truman Library is located at 500 W. U.S. Highway 24, Independence, Missouri.

Benton began work on the mural in early 1960, three years after the founding of the Library. Harry Truman, who had retired to Independence after his Presidency, was frequently at the Library and a deep and lasting friendship emerged between him and Thomas Hart Benton. They both admired common sense, and the history of Missouri, and shared political backgrounds. Thomas Hart Benton’s father was a United States Representative from Missouri and his grandfather served 5 terms as a Missouri state senator from the St. Louis area.

Kansas City, Missouri’s world-class Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is home to approximately 143 Benton drawings, paintings, and lithographs, a small but representative sample of work done over his lifetime.  Not all of these works are on display. The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art is located at 4525 Oak Street and near the Kansas City Art Institute where Benton used to teach. Plan to spend at least 4 hours here besides seeing the Bentons. The Museum has a great restaurant too.

The Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site is a state-owned property located at 3616 Belleview, Kansas City, Missouri. It preserves the house and studio of Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton. The historic site was established in 1977 and is managed by the Missouri Department of Natural Resources. It is located at 3616 Belleview Ave, Kansas City, MO.

Moving into the southeastern part of the State, Joplin boasts a Benton mural in their City hall depicting Joplin at the turn of the 20th century.  It is the most autobiographical mural Benton did because it depicted his years of growing up. His first employment was as a cartoonist for the Joplin newspaper.

Another location of Benton murals is Jefferson City, the state Capitol where Benton painted the Social History of Missouri in a number of large panels on the third floor of the state capital building where they may still be seen 100 years after Thomas Hart Benton painted them.

Benton’s father did not want his son to be an artist and sent him to a military academy. But after a year he went to the Chicago Art Institute, then to study at the Art Students League in New York.

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico. She received a B.A. in Art from the University of Missouri at Kansas City and awarded an M.F.A. in Painting from Kent State University in Ohio. Visit her website at www.ArtistVictoriaChick.com

Featured image includes a portrait of Thomas Hart Benton, and “Achelous and Hercules” a 1947 mural he painted for a Kansas City department store Harzfeld’s, now in the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Cow Trail Art Studio - Silver City, NM

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About the Author:

Victoria Chick is the founder of the Cow Trail Art Studio in southwest New Mexico.

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