Lot 6

Thomas Hart Benton "Study of Processing Cows, KC Stockyards" Graphite (1935-36)

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Thomas Hart Benton

(Missouri, 1889-1975)

Study of Processing Cows, Kansas City Stockyards, circa 1935-36

Graphite on paper

11 1/2" x 8"


Benton scholar Dr. Henry Adams: "Benton used this sketch of the Kansas City stockyards for the Kansas City panel of his Missouri mural. There he juxtaposed this slaughterhouse scene with a rendering of well-dressed people entering the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Benton clearly intended to contrast the elegant and not-so-elegant sides of Kansas City life. Perhaps he also intended to suggest that the wealth that created the museum was provided by the hard, bloody work carried out down in the stockyards.


"Kansas City emerged as a major center in the late 1860s, when Colonel Kersey Coates, who had moved there to represent a group of Philadelphia investors, persuaded the Hannibal and St. Joe railroad to build a bridge in Kansas City rather than Leavenworth, as they originally intended.  Completed in 1869, the same year that the Golden Spike united the railways of east and west, this was the first bridge across the Mississippi River, and it established Kansas City as the hub of seven major railroad lines.


"The first major business to take advantage of this opportunity was the Kansas City Stockyards. Seeing that Kansas City was the junction closest to the cattle ranches of the western plains, a syndicate from Boston, led by Charles Francis Adams, Jr., took over the Kansas City stockyards in 1879, and in a few years expanded it from a modest operation to one which outstripped all other live-stock markets of the country, with the one exception of Chicago, with which it became a close competitor.


"Given the importance of the stockyards to the history of Kansas City, it was natural for Benton to include a scene of them in his mural. But his choice of such a crude subject offended many local boosters, who would have preferred more genteel imagery."


Signed to the bottom right. Housed in a glazed frame measuring 20 3/4" x 16 1/2".


Good to fair condition. Creases at the bottom right corner and horizontally near the top. Rippling to the sheet, and small scattered staining.

Overall Dimensions
Height: 20.75 in
Width: 16.50 in
Depth: 1.50 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.