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In the Field: Depression Era Works by Thomas Hart Benton and Boris Deutsch

March 17, 2012 - May 27, 2012

Thomas Hart Benton studied at the Art Institute of Chicago from 1907 to 1908, then in Paris at the Académie Julian until 1911. While teaching at the Art Students League of New York, Benton met and became longtime friends with Boardman Robinson. In 1935, Benton became the director of the City Art Institute and School of Design in Kansas City. Among the students upon whom he had great influence were Jackson Pollock and Eric Bransby.

Though Benton was exposed to the European avant-garde art that was making its way into American culture, he parted with it by the 1920s in favor of a Regionalist style in which he primarily depicted the familiar scenes and characters of rural American Midwestern life. By the time Benton was featured on the cover of Time magazine in 1934, both the artist and Regionalism had caught America’s attention.

Benton is best-known for his powerful mural painting but also created many easel paintings as well as lithographs. Many of the lithographs in this exhibition were made by the artist in the beginning of the Depression era.

After immigrating to America in 1919, Boris Deutsch (1895-1978) became an established artist in the Los Angeles area. In the 1920s, Deutsch worked for Paramount Pictures designing movie sets. He became associated with the Federal Resettlement Project in the 1930s and sketched migrant workers as they resettled onto California farms.

Deutsch also received Works Progress Administration mural commissions at Los Angeles Terminal Annex Post Office, as well as other sites in California and New Mexico. Of his time with the WPA working alongside artists such as Ben Shahn and Jackson Pollock, Deutsch said, “Quite a few artists were out in the field, so-called. “In the field” meant staying out for weeks, sometimes months…We would go out in the field and travel into different states and make sketches, and then come back to Washington and work them over. Either that or paint those things. And all this work belonged to the Government… The Project was one of these great things that happen once perhaps in the century… I felt it was the epitome, really, the highlight of a great democracy. The Government became interested in the arts and everything was actually real, it was not a dream…”

More on Thomas Hart Benton
1965 Interview with Boris Deutsch