Louisiana Rice Fields, tempera with oil glaze on canvas mounted on panel, 30 x 48in., The Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York
In the summer of 1928, Thomas Hart Benton travelled across the southern United States--into the Appalachian Mountains and down through Georgia, Louisiana and the old river towns along the Mississippi. Once in the flatlands of south Louisiana, Benton made a series of ten or fifteen sketches depicting the rice fields. Just as Benton was fascinated with the cotton harvest, so too did he find in the rice fields subject matter that was unique to the American experience.
Benton most likely executed the present watercolor in the summer of 1928 as a late study for the tempera of the same year, Louisiana Rice Fields, in the collection of the Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, New York. In a letter discussing this watercolor, Dr. Henry Adams writes, "Throughout the watercolor there are passages which express a similar conception of form to the final painting, but are somewhat different in their technical means. In other words, the watercolor expresses the fundamental 'idea' of Benton's design, its inner sculptural essence, but is not merely a copy of its surface outlines. Significantly also, the execution shows signs that changes and adjustments were made in the process of execution. The washes of watercolor often slightly diverge from the pencil outlines, which indicates that the artist was slightly restructuring and reorganizing the forms in the process of producing the piece."
He continues, "The ultimate argument in favor of the authenticity of the watercolor, of course, is the extremely high quality of the execution. Throughout the piece the execution is intelligent and confident...It is executed with an unwavering intelligence and logic, as well as a beautiful touch. The beauty of the piece is more than skin deep."
Letters authenticating the watercolor from Dr. Henry Adams, Prof. Matthew Baigell as well as Anthony Gude and Jessie Benton accompany the lot.