Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
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Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)

Study for 'The History of Water'

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
Study for 'The History of Water'
signed 'Benton' (upper right)—signed again (lower right)
tempera on gessoed board
image, 17 ¾ x 14 ¼ in. (45.1 x 36.2 cm.);
overall, 20 x 18 in. (50.8 x 45.7 cm.
Painted circa 1930-31.
Donald B. Stegner, New Jersey.
Private collection, New Jersey, by descent.
Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York, by 1991.
Bond Street Gallery, San Francisco, California, acquired from the above, 1995.
Laidlaw & Associates, San Francisco, California, acquired from the above, 1995.
Private collection, St. Petersburg, Florida, 1995.
Burchard Galleries, St. Petersburg, Florida, 4 April 2016, lot 1164, sold by the above.
Private collection, Zurich, Switzerland, acquired from the above.
Acquired by the present owner from the above, 2016.
New York, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, Counterpoints: American Art 1930-1945, 1991.
New York, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, The WPA Era: Urban Views and Visions, 1992.

Brought to you by

William Haydock
William Haydock

Lot Essay

This work will be included in the forthcoming Thomas Hart Benton catalogue raisonné being prepared by the Thomas Hart Benton Catalogue Raisonné Foundation. Committee Members: Dr. Henry Adams, Jessie Benton, Anthony Benton Gude, Andrew Thompson and Michael Owen.

Dr. Henry Adams writes of the present work, "This is a study for a mural The History of Water (egg tempera and oil on panel, 83 1/4 x 65 1/4 inches) which Benton executed in 1930 or early 1931 for a drugstore in Washington, D.C. This study presents the entire composition of the mural. Indeed, one might think of it as a sort of small-scale version of the mural, executed with very similar materials...My belief is that The History of Water, and of course this small-scale study of the full composition as well, is very close in date to Benton's last (and best) two panels from the America Today mural, City Activities with Subway and City Activities with Dance Hall. Many of the motifs in The History of Water are extremely similar to the ones in these two panels and it's likely that they were based on alternative sketches that Benton had made of the same models."

Adams also relates the present comosition to other important Benton murals, explaining, "Several figures in The History of Water also bear a general relationship with figures in Benton's next major mural project, The Arts of Life in America, 1932, for the Whitney Museum of American Art...the kneeling Indian resembles Indian figures found in Benton's American Historical Epic of the 1920s, as well as Indians found in the opening scenes of his mural of A Social History of Indiana." (unpublished letter, October 8, 2016)

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