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High Plains

Benton, T.H.
High Plains
signed 'Benton' (lower left)
oil on panel
4 ½ x 6 3/8 in. (11.4 x 16.2 cm.)
Painted in 1953.
Private collection, St. Louis, Missouri.
Private collection, New Mexico.
Santa Fe Art Auction, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 3-4 December 2016, lot 146.
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
Further details
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.

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Lot Essay

The Great Plains of the American Midwest were a constant source of inspiration for Thomas Hart Benton and were the perfect subject to further his mission of creating uniquely American art. By the 1930s, Benton was an American art star, his self-portrait gracing the cover of Time magazine in 1934. The present work, with its open grassland, cowboy, cattle, windmill and sage brush, is a wonderful example of Benton’s unique Regionalism, combining all of the features of his mythic, popular understanding of the American plains which gained him renown.

By the 1950s, the cowboy and the open range were being threatened with extinction. Benton’s romantic view in High Plains, painted in 1953, reflects his fondness and increasing nostalgia for an area under the looming threat of industrialization and farming. The present work additionally highlights the co-dependency of the American people and the American landscape, expertly highlighting the vastness of the plains when compared with man. Just small features in a seemingly endless expanse, the cowboy and his cattle trek toward the untouched beauty of The Great Plains.

While the exact location of the present work is unknown, it is likely an amalgam of landscapes the artist saw during his travels. Benton noted, “My American image is made up of what I have come across, of what was ‘there’ in the time of my experience—no more, no less.” (as quoted in H. Adams, Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original, exhibition catalogue, Kansas City, Missouri, 1989, p. 343)

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