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American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood

American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood

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A thoroughly America artist and a consummate storyteller, Thomas Hart Benton is an epic subject in his own right, but even Benton fans may be surprised to learn of his connections to the film industry. American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood turns a spotlight on Benton’s early work in silent film production in New Jersey and his later expeditions on his art and career. This stunning volume traces Benton’s relationships with film and Hollywood through more than eighty reproductions of his art and twelve informative essays by experts on Benton and American art and culture.



American Epics explores how Benton developed a memorable, cinematic style of painting, blurring fact and fiction, mythic and modern. Benton’s Hollywood works are represented in this book, from sketches made on assignment for Life magazine and promotional works commissioned by major studios for film premiers to Hollywood, a dynamic mural-sized oil painting that exposes and celebrates behind-the-scenes motion-picture production. This was the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood, when Benton achieved his greatest fame. This book also includes a richly illustrated timeline that charts the intersections of Benton’s life and career with the movie industry, race relations, the Depression, war, and other cultural and historical milestones. American Epics reveals how Benton’s early involvement with moviemaking shaped his relationships to American history, Hollywood, art history, and popular culture, affecting his efforts to make pictures about America.

About the Contributors

Austin Barron Bailly is the George Putnam Curator of American Art, Peabody Essex Museum; Matthew Bernstein is Professor, Film, and Media Studies, Emory University; Janet C. Blyberg is Associate Curator, Exhibitions, Research, and Publishing, Peabody Essex Museum; Sarah N. Chasse is Associate Curator, Exhibitions, Research, and Publishing, Peabody Essex Museum; Margaret C. Conrads is Deputy Director of Art and Research, Amon carter Museum of American Art; Erika Doss is Professor, Department of American Studies, University of Notre Dame; John Herron is Associate Professor and Chair, Department of History, University of Missouri, Kansas City; Rob LaZebnik is co-executive producer of The Simpsons; Greil Marcus is an author and critic; Leo G. Mazow is Associate Professor of Art History, Department of Art, University of Arkansas; Pellom McDaniels III is Curator of African American Collections and Assistant Professor of African American Studies, Emory University; Richard J. Powell is John Spencer Bassett Professor, Art, Art History, and Visual Studies, Duke University; Jake Milgram Wien is an independent curator and historian.

Product Specifications

Published by Peabody Essex Museum and Prestel, hardback, 2015. 240 pages. 230 illustrations.