The Cummer's "June Morning" by Thomas Hart Benton

October 6, 2012 1 comment Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens describes "June Morning" by Thomas Hart Benton

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889 - 1975), June Morning, 1945, oil on masonite, 42 x 48 in., Purchased with funds from the Cummer Council, the Morton R. Hirschberg Memorial Fund, and the Mae W. Schultz Acquisition Endowment, AP.1994.2.1. Art T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts/UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

One of The Cummer's fascinating and more prominent pieces in The Cummer’s permanent collection is June Morning by Thomas Hart Benton.  Benton used his art to elevate the experiences of everyday people and ordinary events.  He discovered deeper meaning in seemingly straightforward experiences in the rural Midwest. Characteristic of his mature style, June Morning depicts a view from his mother’s house on Martha’s Vineyard.  In the foreground, the vibrant, twining foliage parts to reveal Benton’s neighbor milking a cow. The Atlantic Ocean is visible in the distance.

Painted one month after Germany’s surrender in World War II, this work is Benton’s patriotic testament to the strength of the American spirit in the face of the destructive powers of war. The neighbor symbolizes Benton’s vision of the American way of life, and the departing storm clouds suggest the passing threat of war. The cycle of life is represented by the bountiful new growth that dominates the foreground and the broken, dead tree in the distance.  

Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) was born in the small Missouri town of Neosho to a family of politicians. His father was a congressman and his great uncle was the first United States senator west of the Mississippi and the longest-serving senator to date. Benton pursued an art career despite the dissatisfaction of his family, first attending the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and then studying in Paris. His earliest works were explorations of various modernist styles, but by the 1920s Benton began to forge his strongly personal style, which is characterized by grand compositions brimming with curvilinear forms, realistic details and intensified colors.    

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