Lot 35

Thomas Hart Benton "Circus Scene" Graphite (ca. 1930)

Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000
Sold for

Bid Increments

Price Bid Increment
$0 $25
$500 $50
$1,000 $100
$5,000 $250
$10,000 $500
$20,000 $1,000
$50,000 $2,500
$75,000 $5,000
$100,000 $10,000

Thomas Hart Benton

(Missouri, 1889-1975)

Circus Scene, circa 1930

Graphite on paper

10 1/2" x 8 1/2"


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams commented about Circus Scene with Horse and Rider [also offered in this auction]: "The style of this work recalls that of Benton’s Sparrow’s Point steel mill drawings of 1930.  Benton may have been influenced to explore circus subject by his friend John Steuart Curry, who traveled with the circus around 1929 and subsequently made a number of interesting circus paintings and prints.  So far as is known, Benton never made a circus painting, although he included a burlesque clown at the upper left of City Activities with Subway, one of the panels of his mural America Today of 1930."


Dr. Adams then compared that sketch to this one: "This must be the same circus sketch, Circus Scene with Horse and Rider, but whereas the first drawing shows a circus rider, this one focuses on the setting, picturing the aerial equipment of the circus acrobats, as well as on a net or trampoline in the center of the stage."


Matted to 20" x 16".


Good condition, noting only mild creasing along the left/ top-left edge and a minor wrinkle at the right top edge.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 20.00 in
Width: 16.00 in
Depth: 0.50 in

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Acquired by Vincent and Leah Campanella directly from Thomas and Rita Benton over the course of their 25 year friendship. A portion of the collection was given to the Campanellas by Rita in 1975 as compensation for Vincent completing "The Sources of Country Music," the mural left unfinished when Tom passed away in 1975. Vincent Campanella was later prominently featured in the Ken Burns documentary Thomas Hart Benton (1988). In 2001, the Campanella family sold the collection to the current owner, a private Kansas City collector.

Benton scholar and author, Dr. Henry Adams, has authenticated the entire collection in person. You can find his essay documenting the 25 year tumultuous friendship of Vincent and Thomas and the origins of the collection at Circle-Auction.com. A copy of his essay will be provided to all winning bidders.