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Kansas City Collections: Art, Antiques, & Jewelry

Sat, Oct 28, 2023 11:00AM EDT
Lot 3

Thomas Hart Benton, Letter to an Art Student

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A letter from Thomas Hart Benton to an art student who had written him for his thoughts on painting from reference photos versus painting from life, offering a glimpse into the artist's process and philosophy. The letter is written in the artist's unmistakable hand on his personal letterhead from his later years on Martha's Vineyard, and it is framed with a printed reproduction of Benton's self-portrait on glossy paper. The glazed frame measures 15 1/4" x 20 1/4".


July 19 - 74

Dear James Camner,

Your teachers are right.

Even though most commercial artists use photographs it is because they are generally too pressed for time to make references to life.

In the photo you get a second hand version of life and a one eyed one at that. You don't see life, in our human sense, with a fixed focus like a camera.

Better try to create your figures from your own direct experiences. When you have learned to do that effectively you will know how to use photos for documentation as I have been forced to do a couple of times because the architectural scene I was painting had been destroyed.

Anyhow - Why copy a photograph? Better to get a camera and make one if you like photographs.


Thomas H. Benton


Very good condition.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 15.25 in
Width: 20.25 in
Depth: 1.00 in

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