A Thomas Hart Benton Guide to KC
Thomas Hart Benton is one of Missouri’s most renowned artists. His career spanned seven decades, first as a cartoonist and evolving to a large-scale muralist.
Easily identifiable, Benton’s art uses realistic themes of American lifestyle and culture. His works can be found across the United States, including:
A Social History of the State of Missouri—Missouri Capitol Building | Jefferson City, MO
Indiana Murals—Indiana University | Bloomington, Indiana
America Today—Metropolitan Museum of Art | New York, New York
While some of Benton’s most famous pieces are spread across the country, there are three spots to find some of his best works right here in Kansas City.
Thomas Hart Benton Home & Studio | 3616 Belleview Ave, Kansas City, MO 64111
Take a $5 guided tour to learn about Benton’s life and art career at his Kansas City home and working studio. The Bentons resided in the Roanoke neighborhood home from 1939-1975. After the death of Tom and his wife, the State of Missouri purchased the house, preserving the home just as it was left.
Their personal belongings and many of Benton’s original paintings remain in the home, and the studio looks as if Tom might return at any minute—coffee cans of brushes, numerous paints and a stretched canvas fill the space.
Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | 4525 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64111
The Nelson-Atkins has more than 100 works of Thomas Hart Benton with 17 currently on display. Find a his pieces in the Atkins Auditorium, Room 217 and Room 220.
Works to see:
The American Historical Epic Series (1920-1928)
The friendly staff of the Nelson will happily point you in the right direction, and as always, the museum is free to visit.
Harry S Truman Library and Museum | 500 W US Hwy 24, Independence, MO 64050
The minute you enter the presidential library, you’re greeted with an ENORMOUS Thomas Hart Benton mural. At 19 feet high and 32 feet wide, Independence and the Opening of the West (1960) is a piece you could examine for hours. The mural spans three decades of Independence’s history and its role as the last city before the frontier. President Truman even painted some of the sky himself.
You can see the mural without paying admission, but while you’re in Independence, the library is worth the visit.
While all the paintings are beautiful and incredible to see, I recommend a tour of Benton’s home the most. It’s like stepping back in time and meeting Benton for yourself.