Lot 21

Thomas Hart Benton "Study of Dig Chinn [Preparing the Bill]," Graphite (1935)

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Thomas Hart Benton

(Missouri, 1889-1975)

Study of "Dig" Chinn in a Three-Quarter View from the Back, 1935

Graphite on paper

8 1/4" x 7"


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams offered the context of this sketch: "In 1935, after Benton gave a lecture in Springfield, Missouri, his brother Nat introduced him to State Senator Ed Barbour, the representative for Green County, Missouri. Barbour invited Benton to take a trip to Jefferson City to meet with other politicos and at a hotel party in Jefferson City, after many libations, the two conceived the notion that Benton should paint a mural for the State of Missouri similar to the one he had just completed for the State of Indiana. On March 5, Barbour introduced Concurrent Resolution Six, describing Benton as 'one of the greatest living painters' and proposing that he create a mural for the House Lounge. By May 28 the resolution had passed both chambers.


"Shortly after receiving the mural commission, Benton completed a portrait of Barbour with two of his constituents, titled Preparing the Bill. Tongue-in-cheek, Benton later described this painting as 'a careful and accurate portrait' of Barbour in which 'I pictured him engaged seriously in his legislative business with all the proper paraphernalia of his trade.' In fact, 'the paraphernalia of his trade' was a whiskey bottle being held by one of Barbour’s constituents, 'Dig' Chinn. When Benton exhibited the piece, Barbour was naturally offended.  To appease him, Benton withdrew the piece from circulation. Years later, when a curator at Randolph-Macon Women’s College asked him about the identity of the figures, Benton was still touchy about the matter. 'What difference does it make who the law makers were?' he wrote back. 'P.S. These fellows have kids and grand kids—leave ‘em alone.'


"This drawing is a study of 'Dig' Chinn, although it portrays him from a different angle than the final painting Preparing the Bill [Baigell 74], which shows him from a three-quarters angle, facing the viewer. The distinctive contours of his nose and chin, however, are quite recognizable. The drawing may well have been made at the hotel party where Benton’s Missouri mural was conceived."


Signed to the reverse. Housed in a glazed frame measuring 18" x 15".


Very good condition.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 18.00 in
Width: 15.00 in
Depth: 1.00 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.