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[AC] Mead Art Museum at Amherst College; [HC] Hampshire College Art Gallery;
[HD] Historic Deerfield; [MH] Mount Holyoke College Art Museum; [MH SK] The Joseph Allen Skinner Museum at Mount Holyoke College; [SC] Smith College Museum of Art; [UM] University Museum of Contemporary Art at UMASS Amherst

 


Maker(s):Benton, Thomas Hart
Culture:American (1889-1975)
Title:Study for Steel, from America Today
Date Made:1930
Type:Painting
Materials:Oil on canvas mounted on board
Place Made:North America; United States
Measurements:Frame: 20 1/8 in x 23 1/2 in x 1 1/8 in; 51.1 cm x 59.7 cm x 2.9 cm; Board: 13 1/4 in x 16 3/4 in; 33.7 cm x 42.5 cm
Narrative Inscription:  SIGNATURE: recto, lwr. l. (black paint): BENTON ; INSCRIPTION: verso, upp. ctr. (pencil): SKETCH FOR NEW SCHOOL MURAL / BY / TOM BENTON / (GIFT) / TO / ME, / R [ill.]
Accession Number:  MH 2010.5
Credit Line:Purchase with the Warbeke Art Museum Fund and the Belle and Hy Baier Art Acquisition Fund
mh_2010_5_v1_01.jpg

Description:
Factory scene with fire, steam, and workers. A figure to the right has hands above head on lever/rod and faces right edge. In the middle ground five other figures work. The scene is sketchy and abstract. Grid lines are visible beneath areas of thin paint.

Label Text:
Thomas Hart Benton’s study for the finished painting Steel, one of ten murals in his famed America Today cycle, depicts the rugged labor and powerful machinery used in processing iron ore. The dramatic background, with towering blast furnace, flaming bessemer converter, and molten metal spilling into ingot molds, demonstrates Benton’s familiarity with this industry. Likely developed from sketches he made at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, Maryland, Benton's study also captures the contorted bodies and mechanical gestures of the steelworkers, suggesting both the skill and exploitation of this workforce.

Now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the America Today murals were commissioned in 1930 for New York’s New School for Social Research. The project established Benton as the nation’s leading muralist, and he is credited with spurring the mural program of the Works Project Administration (WPA) in the mid-1930s.

-Hannah Blunt, Associate Curator, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2017)

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