Painting, Politics, And Performance Enliven The Springfield Museums

Painting, Politics, and Performance Enliven the Springfield Museums

Fake News? Finding the Truth Panelists Include Brooke Hauser, Jill Kaufman, Kathy Roberts Forde and Wayne Phaneuf
Journalists from The Daily Hampshire Gazette, New England Public Radio, UMass Amherst, and The Republican


Thomas Hart Benton’s World
October 25-November 4
Painting, Politics, and Performance: Thomas Hart Benton’s America
November 4, noon to 4 pm

Thomas Hart Benton’s New England Editor
A Visiting Masterpiece from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
June 19, 2018–December 30, 2018
D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts

SPRINGFIELD (MA)—Thomas Hart Benton appeared on the cover of Time magazine December 24, 1934. He was considered then the premier artist of American life. His technique of realism embellished by a kind of energized elegance gave the public heroes from their own ranks—farmers, preachers, singers, writers—who exemplified resilience and strength. Currently showing at the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts at the Springfield Museums, Benton’s masterpiece from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The New England Editor, is the subject of a day-long event that takes a fresh look at the painting, the politics that may or may not be represented by that painting, and aspects of  performance surrounding the artist Thomas Hart Benton.

And you will not want to miss the BOSTON TYPEWRITER ORCHESTRA!

Painting, Politics, and Performance

Thomas Hart Benton’s America

Sunday, November 4 @ 12:00 pm–4:30 pm

D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts

In celebration of the Thomas Hart Benton masterpiece on loan from the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, this event will delve into the artist’s identity while exploring the themes present his work New England Editor.

Tour the Early 20th Century Gallery with our knowledgeable docents.

Listen to the album Saturday Night at Tom Benton’s, on which the artist himself played the harmonica.

Enjoy complimentary refreshments.

Noon & 1:30 pm
Thomas Hart Benton: This PBS documentary by Ken Burns explores the life and ideals of American artist Thomas Hart Benton through interviews with his friends, rivals, fans, family and critics and, additionally, spotlights his paintings and murals (85 minutes).

2 pm
Live performance by the Boston Typewriter Orchestra: A collective endeavor which engages in rhythmic typewriter manipulation combined with elements of performance, comedy and satire.

3 pm
Fake News? Finding the Truth: Panel discussion moderated by Brooke Hauser, the first female editor in chief of the Daily Hampshire Gazette. Other participants include Kathy Roberts Forde, associate professor of Journalism History and Literary Journalism at UMass Amherst; Jill Kaufman, Arts and Culture Reporter for NEPR; and Wayne Phaneuf, executive editor of The Republican newspaper and winner of the 2018 Yankee Quill Award, the highest individual honor bestowed on journalists in New England.

Free with museum admission!

More about the portrait The New England Editor

A visiting masterwork by celebrated Regional artist Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889-1975) is the centerpiece of a small exhibition exploring the artist’s expressive narrative style and interest in capturing the social history of his era. The 1946 painting titled New England Editor depicts New Bedford, Massachusetts, newspaper editor George A. Hough. He is portrayed as an embodiment of fair and honest journalism. Benton shows him writing the word “unless”—a reference to the editor’s legendary approach to journalism that unless the reporter had exhausted all possible sources, the story was not ready to hand in.

For the first time ever, this oil painting is displayed alongside Benton prints and a watercolor from the collection of the D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. Benton’s expressive narrative style and larger interest in capturing contemporary American life—the life of everyday people—are clearly evident in his black and white lithographs. In these examples of Benton’s work we see the sinewy curves of arms accustomed to heavy lifting and little food, the worried brows and the loose skin of the aged that read as heroic, weary but stalwart. Benton’s subjects are resilient, humble, and infinitely admirable.

“Thomas Hart Benton’s New England Editor is a stellar example of the artist’s sinuous, signature style. As a part of the American Scene Painting movement, Benton’s recognizable artwork attempted to depict distinctively American values such as the honesty and integrity portrayed in this painting. Our visitors will be given a chance to contemplate Benton’s style and impact, as well as to reassess his message in our current social and political climate,” said Maggie North, Assistant Curator of Art at the Springfield Museums.

“We anticipate finding unexpected connections between the outstanding portrait of George Hough and our own Benton works,” said Heather Haskell, Director of Art Museums and Vice-President of the Springfield Museums, “and look forward to revealing these discoveries to our visitors and community.”

Standing in front of the portrait, now installed in the Early 20th Century Gallery, the remarkable colors found in the New England Editor animate the space and draw the viewer’s eye to other paintings in the room. The rich phthalo blue of Springfield native Harold Rabinovitz’s Café Scene (c. 1939) is visible out of the corner of your eye as you look at the Benton, a flash like a blue bird that makes you turn your head to see what you might otherwise miss. Similarly the azure blue of the sky in Georgia O’Keeffe’s New Mexican Landscape (1930) harmonizes with a quiet serenity with the sea-blue-green of the walls that surround Benton’s editor, evoking the out-of-doors and reminding us all that color is one of the many rich gifts of this earth.

The Benton masterpiece is on loan to the Springfield Museums as part of a six-year, five-museum collaboration initiated by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, and supported by Terra-Art Bridges. The museums involved are the Boston MFA, the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts (Springfield, Mass.), Fenimore Art Museum (Cooperstown, N.Y.), Munson-Williams-Proctor Arts Institute (Utica, N.Y.) and the Mattatuck Museum (Waterbury, Conn.). The cohort museums will work together to co-organize a series of traveling exhibitions over the next six years, drawing on the combined breadth and depth of their holdings and to encourage engagement with American art within different communities.

“The Springfield Museums are honored to engage in this exciting new partnership with the Boston Museum of Fine Arts as well as three renowned art museums in New England funded by the Terra-Art Bridges Initiative,” said Kay Simpson, President of the Springfield Museums. “The timing of the collaboration coincides with a period of tremendous growth and heightened visibility for the Springfield Museums and we are well positioned to leverage the access to American art collections and resources that the multi-year partnership will bring to our expanding audiences.”

This Museum collaboration is made possible by Terra-Art Bridges, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art and Art Bridges, Inc.