Lot 37

Thomas Hart Benton "Mule Eating Grass [Missouri Mural]" Graphite (1936)

Estimate: $1,000 - $2,000
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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)

Mule Eating Grass, 1936

Graphite on paper

7" x 10"


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams: "This is the mule being loaded by a trader who appears in the first scene of Benton’s Missouri mural. In the final painting, Benton omitted the grass sticking out of its mouth. A mule is the sterile offspring of a male ass and a female horse, and in the 1930s it was still widely used as a pack animal.  Benton sprinkled mules throughout his Missouri mural, perhaps in part because Missouri at the time was the world’s leading center of mule breeding. Throughout his life, Benton liked to draw them, rendering their heads and long ears with whimsical exaggeration. 'The mule is a damned dramatic animal,' he once commented. 'I don’t know what it is about a mule, but they are so fascinating.'"


Matted to 16" x 20".


Very faint foxing across the sheet.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 16.00 in
Width: 20.00 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.