DescriptionTHOMAS HART BENTON (American, 1889-1975)
Black Man Pulling (Preparatory Study for "Over the Mountains," Third Chapter of The American Historical Epic mural), circa 1923-24
Oil and gouache on paper
17-3/4 x 13-1/4 inches (45.1 x 33.7 cm) (sheet)
Signed lower right: Benton
Inscribed on mount verso: oil on paper ... signed Benton / appears to be wrapping paper / matted/showing 12-1/2 x 16-3/4
Robert E. Neuse, New York, acquired from the above;
The Neuse family, New York, by descent;
Acquired by the present owner from the above.
This sheet is a preparatory study for a powerful figure in the foreground of a panel from Benton's first mural, The American Historical Epic (1919-1926). Specifically it portrays one of two African-Americans pulling heavy cargo over the mountains during westward expansion in the third "chapter" of the mural. Unlike historical mural projects that came before, Benton noted that he wanted "to present a people's history in contrast to the conventional histories which spotlighted great men, political and military events, and successions of ideas. I wanted to show that the people's behaviors, their action on the opening land, was the primary reality of American life." Of course Benton's history thus also had to tell the unhappy tale of racial conflict and economic exploitation that made "progress" possible. The finished painting to which this study relates hangs in The Nelson-Watkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri.
Loss to upper right, lower left and lower right corners, with notches along the right sheet edge; overall paper discoloration with (water) staining along the top and right sheet edges; sheet appears to be undulating along the top edge; several vertical folding creases through the composition and one horizontal folding crease along the bottom edge. Framed Dimensions 22.25 X 18.5 Inches
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