May 21, 2014–February 15, 2015
Location: Nelson-Atkins Building, Gallery 214
The year 2014 marks the 125th anniversary of the birth of Missouri native and Kansas City resident Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975). Part of a city–wide celebration, this installation presents four decades of Benton's lithographs and highlights his dedication to telling the many stories that shape our national narrative.
Prints held a particular attraction for Benton. The relative affordability of the medium matched his aim to make art available to as many viewers as possible. The majority of his nearly 100 lithographs were printed in editions of 250 by master lithographer George C. Miller and distributed by the Associated American Artists (AAA). The AAA sold these prints by mail and in department stores, changing the perception that art was a luxury only the wealthy could enjoy. Americans across the nation acquired Benton lithographs for a price that seems unbelievable today. For most of the 1930s through the mid–1970s, a signed Benton lithograph could be yours for only five dollars.
Thomas Hart Benton, American, 1889-1975. Wreck of the Ol' 97, 1944. Lithograph on paper, 10 5/16 x 14 15/16 in. (26.1874 x 37.9222 cm). Donated by the artist for the 6th War Bond Auction; purchased and given by the Kansas City Power and Light Company, 44-51/3. © Thomas Hart Benton and Rita P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.