Thomas Hart Benton

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Thomas Hart Benton. Ken Burns, dir. 1989. DVD.

DVD Cover

Review: His paintings were burly. Energetic. And as uncompromising as the midwestern landscapes and laborers they celebrated. Thomas Hart Benton depicted a self-reliant America emerging from the Depression. Today his works hang in museums. During his life, Benton preferred to hang them in saloons, where ordinary people could appreciate them in congenial surroundings. A fierce defender of the aesthetics of realism, Benton took on the art of establishment and railed against abstraction. His reputation suffered the consequences as his star rose, fell and rose again. While Benton failed to stem the tide of modernism, his influence can be seen in the works of his student, Jackson Pollack. Master filmmaker Ken Burns uses long-lost footage, penetrating interviews and the magnificent art of Benton to tell the bittersweet story of an extraordinary American artist who became emblematic of the price all artists must pay to remain true to their talents and themselves.

Additional information, background material, director's commentary and activities related to Ken Burn's Thomas Hart Benton can be found at pbs.org.

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