Chords of Memory: Lithographs by Thomas Hart Benton

March 9, 2012 - August 5, 2012

Man playing guitar for child

Associated with the Regionalist movement, Thomas Hart Benton wanted to create a “living art” that presented American subjects in a way that was easily accessible to everyday people. He traveled on sketching trips around America’s heartland during the Depression, often playing his harmonica in exchange for room and board. His lithographs record his travels, paying homage to the people and places that he encountered.

Some of the prints deal with Benton’s memories of his own childhood in Missouri, of his family and neighbors and how they lived. Others deal with music—with the singing, foot stamping, and folk songs that shaped the character of rural life in the South and Midwest. However, by the 1940s, these songs were beginning to disappear. Chords of Memory examines Benton’s attempt to record these songs and the way of life that they represented.

Two abstract oil paintings by Benton will be shown along with the exhibition. They represent the artist’s early experiments in synchronism, a movement interested in creating harmonies with color just as musicians composed with sound.

Image: Thomas Hart Benton, American, 1889-1975; The Music Lesson, 1943; lithograph; Gift of W. P. Jacocks, 58.2.220