Thomas Benton, Jazz Roots: Art Gallery

Jazz Roots: Painting the Jazz Scene


New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut
The Arts of Life in America: Arts of the City, 1932

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)

Thomas Hart Benton was born April 15, 1889 in Neosho, Missouri. By age 17, he had launched his artistic career as a cartoonist for The American Joplin. Following a brief period abroad in Paris, Benton returned to the United States to travel throuhg the rural American South and Midwest, sketching the land and people he encountered. In the 1930s, Benton emerged as the spokesman for the American Regionalist painters. Impatient with the dominance of French art, Benton positioned the rural South and Midwest as the cultural center of distinctly American art.

The Arts of Life in America, a project sponsored by the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, was one of many notable murals Benton completed in the 1930s. Including Indian Arts, Arts of the West, Arts of the South, and Arts of the City, the mural is an artistic definition of national identity through a portrayal of diverse American activities. Arts of the City, specifically uses the jazz musicians and the jazz scene to reflect the emergence of urban American identity.

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