The Missouri Department of Natural Resources will hold an open house Thursday, July 7 to unveil a never-before-exhibited original oil painting by Thomas Hart Benton. The “Unseen Benton” open house will take place at the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site from 5:30 – 7:00 PM. The site is located at 3616 Belleview, Kansas City, MO, 64111.
The highlight of this free event is the debut of a very early Benton still-life painting. Produced shortly after beginning his art career in New York City in 1912, this untitled work is an example of young Benton’s attempt to paint in the style of the French artist, Paul Cézanne. This painting has never been exhibited in any art museum, been shown in an art gallery, or depicted in a Benton biography or catalog.
Images: Artist, Carl Van Vechten. United States Library of Congress's Prints and Photographs division under the
digital ID van.5a51723. Benton Home and Studio, Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
The painting was owned by Tom Benton’s New York City dentist, Dr. Moritz Jagendorf. Living in Greenwich Village in the early part of the 20th Century, “Jagy” as he was known, became friends with musicians & artists, particularly Tom Benton. The painting was inherited by Dr. Jagendorf’s grand-daughter, Ms. Ruth Alpert of Santa Barbara, CA. She has generously agreed to loan her painting to the Thomas Hart Benton Home State Historic Site for a one-year period. After a friend suggested that she let a museum borrow the painting, Ms. Alpert said that she was, “thrilled to find the Benton Home State Historic Site – it’s a perfect match! And I am very happy the painting is going beyond my family circle and will now be seen by many more people.” She also related that her grandfather had a flair for the dramatic; he was a well-known collector of folktales, and wrote numerous books on the subject. Two of his books, New England Bean Pot and Sand in the Bag, are in Benton’s personal library and inscribed by Moritz.
Thomas Hart Benton was born in Neosho, Missouri on April 15, 1889. He studied art in Paris in 1909-11; and later said that he, “wallowed in every cock-eyed ‘ism’ that came along” while he was there. Benton tried his hand at Impressionism, Cubism, Pointillism, and Synchromism. He arrived in New York in June of 1912 as a starving 23-year old artist. Within the next two years, he created this oil on canvas still-life, and it went to Dr. Moritz, possibly as payment in lieu of services. Benton was so poor at the time that he had difficulty affording art supplies, and there is another unfinished still-life on the backside of the canvas. Very little of Benton’s early artwork survives, as his parents’ home in Neosho burned to the ground in 1917.
There will be several other activities taking place at the historic site during the “Unseen Benton” event. The Friends of the Benton Home will provide light refreshments in the Visitor Center. A number of artifacts that are normally not on exhibit will be taken out of archival storage to be temporarily displayed in the Benton’s dining room. An arrangement of similar objects and flowers will be staged in Benton’s studio, and visitors will be encouraged to create their own version of the new still-life with colored pencil on paper. A large, framed color photo of the interior of the studio will be raffled off by the Friends’ Group. Finally, there will be a photo booth which includes a life-size cutout of Tom Benton; guests can tag their pictures at #UnseenBenton.
Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site is located at 3616 Belleview in Kansas City, MO. Persons requiring special services or accommodations to attend the open house can call the site at (816) 931-5722 or the Department of Natural Resources toll free at 1-800-334-6946 (voice) or 1-800-379-2419 (Telecommunications Device for the Deaf). For information about state parks and historic sites, visit the Web at www.mostateparks.com.
Information for this post provided by the Thomas Hart Benton Home and Studio State Historic Site [Website]