Thomas Hart Benton in the American Scene
The term "American Scene Painting" originated from writer Henry James's collection of essays, entitled The American Scene (1907) which describe James's first impressions of the United States after 21 years of expatriation. American Scene Painting generally refers to paintings by American artists between 1920 and 1940 that seek to capture a specifically American culture. Benton, then, fits within the category of American Scene Painters for chronological reasons; the bulk of his works were done throughout the late 1930s and early 1940s. The subject of his works, however, more solidly characterizes him as an American Scene Painter. Whether capturing agricultural scenes of the midwest, developing war propaganda for World War II, or portraying the richness of city life, Benton focused on bringing the American public into the art world. Benton's pastoral views and distinct style of figure sketching represented a step away from the European aesthetic of the early 20th century, and emphasized realism over abstraction.