Lot 90

Thomas Hart Benton "Studies for The American Historical Epic" Graphite (1924)

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Thomas Hart Benton

(Missouri, 1889-1975)

Figure Studies for “The American Historical Epic,” 1924

Graphite on paper (dabs of paint to lower right of sheet, outside of mat window)

13 1/4" x 6 1/2" (sight)


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams: "The sketch of legs at the bottom of this sheet relates closely to a more finished drawing of the entire figure in The Benton Trust, which portrays this individual in colonial costume firing a gun. In her book on Benton’s drawings, Karal Ann Marling identifies the Trust’s drawing as a study for Struggle for the Wilderness of 1924, one of the panels in the second chapter of Benton’s The American Historical Epic. However, while the pose and costume of this figure are similar to those in Struggle for the Wilderness, this figure does not appear in the final painting. Consequently, it must either have been part of a rejected version of the design, or, more likely, considering how carefully Benton studied this figure, a sketch for a closely related panel in the Epic that Benton never completed.


"The dabs of paint at the lower right were presumably added when Benton made an oil study of this composition: the small scale of the brushwork suggests that these dabs were applied when Benton was executing a small compositional study rather than a full-scale painting.


"Although it cannot be securely identified, the figure on the upper part of this sheet is presumably also a study for the American Historical Epic. The pose bears a general resemblance to the farmer with a hoe in the background of Benton’s Lost Hunting Ground, 1934-6, but more likely this sketch is a study for another panel of the project which was never executed.  


Matted to 20" x 16".


Good to fair condition. There is pronounced rippling to the upper half of the sheet, and an area of wrinkling to the lower left quadrant from handling.

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.