Lot 11

Thomas Hart Benton "Study for Jesse James Scene" Graphite (1936)

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


Study for Figure on Horseback, Jesse James, Missouri Mural, 1936 

Graphite on paper

14 1/2" x 10 1/4"


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams: "Over the three doorways of the House Lounge, where [the Missouri State Capitol mural] was painted, Benton placed scenes he called “Missouri Mythology” showing legendary figures of Missouri history: Huckleberry Finn, Frankie and Johnnie, and Jesse James. Benton noted of his Jesse James panel [Baigell 97] that “the picture shows actions that occurred at different times,” although the general imagery followed that of the song:


Jesse and his brother Frank robbed the Chicago bank,

They held up the Danville train.

He robbed from the rich and he gave to the poor

He’d a hand and a heart and a brain.


"This drawing portrays a figure on horseback in the background of the panel of Jesse James. As a model for the figure of Jesse James, Benton chose his young friend Dan James, the great-nephew of the bandit, who was a Hollywood screenwriter who worked with Charlie Chaplin. James later recalled:


"I posed for Tom for the Jefferson City mural as Jesse James. As far as I know I’m at least a foot taller than Jesse. He got me up in blue jeans and an old pair of boots and he stuck me in one of his damn baroque positions where I had to stand forever with my knees bent holding this giant Colt revolver. I thought it came out recognizably. I’m charmed to be entombed down there in Jefferson City.”


"Benton later repeated the composition of the Jesse James panel in one of his largest and best known lithographs. Such Missouri outlaws occupied a sweet spot in Benton’s imagination, since his father, when he served as District Attorney, had prosecuted the Bald Knobbers, the last of the Missouri outlaw gangs. As Benton wrote: 'When I began to take notice of things, my father had just finished the prosecution of the 'Bald Knobbers,' a gang of Ozark feudists who had not learned to differentiate between law and personal will. I remember very well when we kept the shutters of our house closed at night for fear some disgruntled Knobber or one of his relatives might take a potshot at the old man.'"


Signed below the figure. Housed in a glazed frame measuring 25" x 20".


Good to fair condition, noting several horizontal creases across the sheet. The top right corner is bleached a lighter shade than the rest of the sheet.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 25.00 in
Width: 20.00 in
Depth: 1.25 in

Available payment options

  • Visa
  • Mastercard
  • Amex
  • Diners
  • Discover
  • JCB
  • Union Pay

Pick Up, Packing, & Shipping: Winning bidders may pick up their lots, once paid in full, at Circle’s auction office during regular business hours. If packing and shipping is required, we can provide you with a list of recommended shippers by request. You will be responsible to contact, arrange shipment, and pay 3rd party shippers. Circle will not be responsible for loss or damage of purchased lots handled or shipped, nor for acts and omissions, by 3rd party shippers, whether recommended by us or not. Circle will not release the lot for shipment until payment has been made in full and a buyer’s written shipping authorization form has been received. Winning bids may not be retracted, canceled or rescinded due to issues with shipping including, but not limited to, costs or prohibitions. It is the responsibility of the bidder to account for shipping prior to bidding. Failure to Pick Up & Storage: Winning bidders must pick up or have lots shipped within 15 calendar days of the close of the auction. On the 16th day from the close of the auction Circle has the right to charge the winning bidder a storage fee of $5 per lot per day. Lots that have been paid for, but remain on our premises sixty (60) days from the close of the auction may be sold by Circle, with no notice to the buyer. Any funds in excess of the purchase price, commissions, applicable costs, and storage fees will be remitted to the original winning bidder. At the point where storage fees associated with an unshipped item exceed the hammer price of the item the winning bidder will be considered in default of our terms and conditions and forfeits ownership to Circle Auction or its affiliated companies. In the case where the item is forfeited the winning bidder will not be compensated in any way. Lots left with Circle after the 16th day from the close of the auction are stored at the buyer’s risk. If you have any questions regarding these terms please contact Circle Auction by email at : Info@Circle-Auction.com

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.