“Perilous Visions” – Thomas Hart Benton Exhibit – August 2018 thru Spring 2019 – State Historical Society of Missouri (Columbia)
Benton’s “The Harvest” (1941-1942)
After the United States entered World War II, Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton responded to the national crisis by working through his thoughts and emotions on canvas. Executed between 1941 and 1944, the works in the Benton’s Perilous Visions exhibition manifest the anxiety, horror, grief, and resolve that Benton and his audience experienced during the war. Visit the Columbia center now to explore ten of Benton’s paintings and their allegorical images, visions of events that came to fruition, and expression of fears that thankfully were never realized on US soil. Eight of these famous paintings illustrated the widely circulated Year of Peril propaganda booklet, published by Abbott Laboratories and the US government in 1942.
Perhaps the most debated, controversial piece in the collection is “Negro Soldier.” Quoting from a Columbia Missourian article:
African-Americans were rarely shown in World War II propaganda images during that period, but Benton decided to include them in his series on the war, Stack (Missouri Historical Society Curator) said.
In November 2017, Benton’s daughter, Jessie Benton, wrote a letter to the Herald Times Online, in which she described her father as the first American painter to portray African-Americans “as people rather than slaves.”
“In 1942, ‘Portrait of A Negro Soldier,’ not white soldier, showed the sacrifice being made by all of our men in World War II — to bring attention to the African-American as a citizen, a human being, a man willing to die for his country, who deserved and earned the respect of all his countrymen,” Jessie Benton wrote.
If You Go
What: “Perilous Visions,” an exhibition of paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, including his “Year of Peril” series
Where: State Historical Society of Missouri, Ellis Library, Lowry Mall, MU
When: 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays and 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturdays
*Thanks to Jamie Logan for sharing this information with the Network.