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On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial int… Read more Visionary: The Paul G. Allen Collection


signed and dated 'Benton 53' (lower left)
oil on canvas
22 1/4 x 27 1/4 in. (56.5 x 69.2 cm.)
Painted in 1953
Jules Worthington, Martha's Vineyard (acquired from the artist, 1956).
Private collection, Brooklyn (acquired from the above, 2003).
Andrew Thompson Fine Art, New York (acquired from the above, 2011).
Acquired from the above by the late owner, 2011.
Owen Gallery, Benton on the Vineyard, exh. cat., New York, 2008, pp. 24-26 (illustrated in color, p. 24, fig. 6).
Martha's Vineyard, Carol Craven Gallery, Thomas Hart Benton: Original Drawings and Paintings, August-October 2003.
New York, Owen Gallery, Off the Northeast Coast, October-December 2003, pp. 70-71 (illustrated in color, p. 70; detail illustrated, p. 71).
Special notice
On occasion, Christie's has a direct financial interest in the outcome of the sale of certain lots consigned for sale. This will usually be where it has guaranteed to the Seller that whatever the outcome of the auction, the Seller will receive a minimum sale price for the work. This is known as a minimum price guarantee. This is such a lot.
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.

Brought to you by

Max Carter
Max Carter Vice Chairman, 20th and 21st Century Art, Americas

Lot Essay

As the twentieth century’s champion of rural America, Thomas Hart Benton dedicated himself to an honest portrayal of the nation’s singular landscape. Among his many inspirations, the small Massachusetts island of Martha’s Vineyard had a significant impact on the artist’s defining style. Emblematic of the everyday American subject matter he sought to champion, Nashaquitsa represents the culmination of the great Regionalist master’s craft.
In 1920, Benton first sought refuge from the sweltering summer days of New York on Martha’s Vineyard. Sparsely populated at the time—well before it became a popular vacation destination—the island provided new clarity with which Benton developed his singular artistic language. As the artist himself reported, “Martha’s Vineyard had a profound effect on me. The relaxing sea air, the hot sand on the beaches where we loafed naked, the great and continuous drone of the surf, broke down most of the tenseness which life in the cities had given me. It separated me from the Bohemias of art and put a physical sanity into my life for four months of the year….It freed my art from the dominance of narrow urban conceptions and put me in a psychological condition to face America” (quoted in P. Burroughs, Thomas Hart Benton: A Portrait, New York, 1981, p. 100). Newly energized, Benton painted with vigor—applying techniques from his range of studies including portraiture, illustration and abstraction to an entirely different subject: the American landscape.
While he would eventually move to the Midwest, Benton continuously returned to Martha’s Vineyard throughout his career, and his island scenes always maintained a place of prominence. He eventually purchased a home on the Vineyard in the area of Chilmark, and in the 1950s purchased another small cottage on Nashaquitsa Pond, also known as Menemsha Pond, for his son T.P. to stay. When T.P. moved away in 1960, Benton relocated his studio to the structure and continued to paint many depictions of the surrounding landscape. The area was a favored subject not only for Benton but also for his famed pupil, the Abstract Expressionist master Jackson Pollock, who painted T.P.’s Boat in Menemsha (circa 1934, New Britain Museum of American Art, Connecticut).
Painted with a brilliant blend of cerulean blues and verdant greens, Nashaquitsa embodies Benton’s instantly recognizable and decidedly modern style. The artist imbues the work with a sense of motion by using sinuous forms—each rendered in flowing complementary and contrasting colors. Typical of Benton’s best paintings, these techniques result in a spiraling configuration, which pulls each individual element into a unifying scheme of visual rhythm. As exemplified by Nashaquitsa, by stripping the birds-eye vista down to its basic elements, Benton produces a modernist triumph emblematic of his mature aesthetic on Martha’s Vineyard. As Henry Adams describes, Benton’s work from this period is among his most successful. “Benton’s later paintings of Martha’s Vineyard are the most serene and lyrical. They express a slight shift of both location and mood….What’s wonderful about all these paintings is the lyrical harmony of different forms. There’s a sense of calm and serenity not found in Benton’s earlier work” (Benton on the Vineyard, exh. cat., Owen Gallery, New York, 2008, p. 26).

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