York College Galleries

York, PA




On the Road with Thomas Hart Benton: Images of a Changing America


York College is pleased to present On the Road with Thomas Hart Benton: Images of a Changing America as its first exhibition of the new year. This selection of paintings and drawings, many of which have been incorporated into Benton's major paintings, will be on display through April 2, 2000. (left: I Got a Gal on Sourwood Mountain, 1938, lithograph)

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) is a widely recognized American painter, muralist, printmaker, and illustrator, who first attained prominence during the 1920s and 1930s as an artist, teacher, critic, writer and outspoken art world personality. By 1934 when he was selected to be the first artist featured on the cover of Time magazine, he had become one of the most recognized artists in America. Drawn from the collection of the artist's estate in Kansas City, this exhibition will demonstrate how drawing, one of his greatest talents, was commonly combined with travel, one of his greatest passions, to produce some of his most significant work.

Beginning in the 1920s and continuing throughout his career, Benton used drawing as a central element in his travels, sketching and recording the details of the changing daily life he encountered on the back roads and in the isolated cultural pockets of America. Inspired by his early campaign travels in Missouri with his father, M.E. Benton, who was elected to Congress as a Populist in 1897, and driven by his own conviction that the nation was sacrificing its unique regional culture and history in its rush to become a new, modern society, Benton set out to capture the essence of contemporary America. (left: Study for Romance, 1931-32, egg tempera and oil on board, Kansas City, MI Benton Trust)

Often traveling alone, by foot and later by automobile, usually carrying little more than his pencils and sketchbooks. Benton began to explore and document remote regions of this country a decade before government-sponsored writers and photographers visited many of the same locations during the 1930s. From the Ozarks to the Appalachians and the Rockies, throughout the rural and urban South, up the Eastern Coast, into Missouri and the Middle West, along the Oregon Trail and into the West, Benton studied and documented a modern nation in transition. Later, he incorporated details from these drawings into his major paintings and mural projects.

In his drawings, Benton is both an artist and historian, and acute observer who was also the proud descendant of an American political family, a family closely tied to the advancement of the frontier and settlement of the West. He served as a witness to America's transition from a rural, agricultural nation at the turn of the century to an urban, industrialized world power noted for its automobiles, skyscrapers, and airplanes. (right: Sheepherder, 1955-60, oil on canvas, Kansas City, MI Benton Trust)

The exhibition, on loan from the Benton Trust, was organized by the Morris Museum of art and will travel to thirteen museums across the United States over the next three years. To reach Curator Rick Gruber (now Director of the Ogden Museum of Southern Art at the University of New Orleans), phone 504-539-9600.

Please also see:

If you are interested in "American Scene" art of the 1930s and 40s you may enjoy the WPA Period Print Collection Directory from the University of Montana. See also an article on the Museum of Art Tallahassee website.

More web resources on Benton:


The York College Galleries are located on the first floor of the Music, Art, and Communication Center. Free visitor parking is adjacent to the Center. All exhibitions and receptions are free and open to the public.

To reach the gallery from the south take route 83N to the North George Street exit (Exit 5). Proceed straight to the second light and turn left onto Country Club Road. To reach the gallery from the north take route 83S to the first Queen Street exit (Exit 6). Proceed straight until Rathton Road turns into Country Club Road. The College entrance is on the right. Turn left into the parking lot of the MAC Center. The gallery is on the first floor to the left. (information as of 2/00)

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