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Benton’s Missouri Mural

July 2024
1min read

Three of the four walls of the House lounge, on the third floor of Missouri’s splendid capitol in Jefferson City, present the mural painting that Thomas Hart Benton regards as his best work. The subject is, of course, the history and folklore of Missouri. Benton’s interpretation is generic for the most part : although some specific characters can be recognized (as in the panel over the door, above, showing Huck Finn and Jim on their Mississippi raft), the artist’s intention was to paint a series of typical Missouri scenes enacted by typical Missouri people. The style is mature Benton, strong in color and sinewy in line; he completed the work in 1936 when he had reached the height of his career. Not everybody liked it, however. “There were some State Representatives who thought the mural ought to be whitewashed off the wall after I had finished it,” Benton once said. “I figured that by the time they got the votes to do the whitewashing, they’d probably get to liking the mural. They did!” For additional views of the mural, plus other samples of Benton’s work, turn the page.

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