Thomas Hart Benton's name is synonymous with American Regionalism. Born in Neosho, Missouri, which is by all accounts your typical middle-American town, as the son of a U.S. Congressman and grandson of a U.S. Senator, it is no wonder Benton's best works present both the realities of and political commentary on American life. Benton studied art first at the Art Institute of Chicago before studying for three years in Paris at the Academie Julien. When Benton returned for Paris, he settled in New York, where, to his dismay, his European modernist paintings did not sell. After serving time in World War I as a draftsman in the Navy, Benton turned to realism, and his first post-war exhibition of these works were a success. His true acclaim as an artist began with the mural "The American Historical Epic" for the New School of Social Research in New York City.
Taps for Private Tussie won the Thomas Jefferson Southern Award in 1943 and was also a Book-of-the-Month Club selection that same year. This tale about the Tussie family is a story of poor white Southern mountaineers on relief and their attitudes towards human life and its problems, found in all peoples, places, and the times. The book is a fitting backdrop for the illustrations of Thomas Hart Benton whose easily recognizable fluid, almost sculpted figures depicted scenes of every day life and their accompanying struggles of survival. His biting social commentary can be seen in The Square Dance as well as his lively and amusing sense of humor in the slightly exaggerated ear of the fiddler in addition to the upraised hand of the dancer in the center. This proposed study for an illustration in the book highlights Benton's distinctive expressive lines and a certain spirited quality that is all Benton.
Louis Katz Art Galleries, New York, 1953
Henry van Dam, Madison, New Jersey
Stuart, Jesse, Taps for Private Tussie, New York: E. P. Dutton, 1943