"A Social History of the State of Missouri" By Thomas Hart Benton

1434 Words 6 Pages
Thomas Hart Benton was an American Regionalist artist famous for his striking murals, including his provocative wall painting located in the Missouri State Capital building’s House Lounge room entitled A Social History of the State of Missouri. Benton finished this mural in the year of 1936, many people, including citizens and legislators alike
What I see when I look at this large piece of work is the different painted scenes telling the accounts of Missouri’s history and along with a few images depicting popular folklore of the state above each door leading into the lounge. Benton brilliantly divided the mural into three different intervals along each wall, each representing a distinct time period between the years of 1730 to 1930s. Each
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Behind them we see a lit up steam boat with thick black smoke seeping from its stacks and another raft with a teepee and two men aboard.
On the far right of the wall, Benton pays homage to the working class of Missouri, two men, one black and one white, are depicted chopping wood and a blacksmith is hammering into shape a wheel for a wagon. In the distance, he paints a slave, shackled to an auction podium while his vendor squeezes his thigh, showing off his muscles to possible buyers. This one of the first images in the mural depicting slavery, and it is said that this outraged many viewers, but Benton felt it was important to not only show the motivational and inspirational side of Missouri, but also those dark times as well.
There are two smaller framed off pictures he paints beside to the side of the door, he gives them their own meanings relating to Missouri’s history, he calls these paintings “Persecution”. By keeping up with his theme of slavery, next to his showing of the European settlers, he reveals that the settlers, the French, were the ones to blame for introducing slaves into the new state to work in