Automotive Holiday Deals Books Gift Guide Books Gift Guide Shop Men's Athletic Shoes Learn more nav_sap_SWP_6M_fly_beacon Prime Music Sweepstakes egg_2015 All-New Amazon Fire TV Grooming Deals Gifts Under $50 Amazon Gift Card Offer cm15 cm15 cm15 $30 Off Amazon Echo $15 Off All-New Fire Kindle Voyage Cyber Monday Video Game Deals Outdoor Deals on Tikes
Thomas Hart Benton: A Life and over one million other books are available for Amazon Kindle. Learn more

Enter your mobile number or email address below and we'll send you a link to download the free Kindle App. Then you can start reading Kindle books on your smartphone, tablet, or computer - no Kindle device required.

  • Apple
  • Android
  • Windows Phone
  • Android

To get the free app, enter your email address or mobile phone number.

Buy New
Temporarily out of stock.
Order now and we'll deliver when available.
Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item.
Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.
Thomas Hart Benton: A Lif... has been added to your Cart
Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See all 2 images

Thomas Hart Benton: A Life Hardcover – March 13, 2012

10 customer reviews

See all 2 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
New from Used from
"Please retry"
"Please retry"
$10.93 $3.52

Best Books of the Month
See the Best Books of the Month
Want to know our Editors' picks for the best books of the month? Browse Best Books of the Month, featuring our favorite new books in more than a dozen categories.
$40.00 FREE Shipping. Temporarily out of stock. Order now and we'll deliver when available. We'll e-mail you with an estimated delivery date as soon as we have more information. Your account will only be charged when we ship the item. Ships from and sold by Gift-wrap available.

Frequently Bought Together

  • Thomas Hart Benton: A Life
  • +
  • Ken Burns' America: Thomas Hart Benton
Total price: $52.73
Buy the selected items together

Special Offers and Product Promotions

  • Take an Extra 30% Off Any Book: Use promo code HOLIDAY30 at checkout to get an extra 30% off any book for a limited time. Excludes Kindle eBooks and Audible Audiobooks. Restrictions apply. Learn more | Shop now

Editorial Reviews


Wolff . . . makes the artist interesting, largely by taking a balanced view of him. He neither praises nor critically buries Benton but rather, and with what feels like an undercurrent of empathy, works hard to give him his day in court . . . Some biographies edit out ambiguity; they want us to love or loathe their subjects. Wolff takes the opposite tack. He lays out all of Benton's contrarieties [and] argues them through . . . The Benton who emerges is not appealing, but neither is he simple, even though he spent much of his energy trying to be.” ―Holland Cotter, The New York Times Book Review

Thomas Hart Benton may be the artist for our times. He'd fit right into the tea party and Occupy Wall Street, anywhere left, right or center where folks gather to protest big business and big government . . . [Justin Wolff] plants the artist in the politics of his time and deftly traces the artistic influences that eventually brought Benton to his mature style, one based upon what he saw with his own eyes but bursting with muscular energy. Wolff also paints a sensitive portrait of a man often full of self-doubt yet as stubborn as a Missouri mule . . . [He writes] with remarkable evenhandedness and clarity.” ―Bill Marvel, The Dallas Morning News

A valuable and welcome book . . . Carefully researched and exceptionally readable . . . Thanks to Thomas Hart Benton: A Life . . . we have the chance to renew our understanding and appreciation of this seminal figure and his legacy. Wolff convincingly demonstrates that Benton was a gifted artist who played a central role as American art moved into the modern era.” ―Terry Hartle, The Christian Science Monitor

[An] energetic and revelatory biography . . . By making judicious and entertaining use of Benton's letters and autobiographies, along with an array of eyewitness testimonies, Wolff portrays Benton as insecure and arrogant, gruff and sensitive, pugnacious and charming . . . Wolff's biography succeeds in recalibrating our appreciation for a quintessential American artist and his perpetually provoking art.” ―Donna Seaman, The Kansas City Star

Fascinating . . . While many people are familiar with Benton's oeuvre, the artist himself has largely eluded examination. Wolff rectifies the oversight rather well, giving us a portrait of this complicated, fascinating, often contradictory man that is crisp, well informed and satisfyingly complete.” ―Michael J. Bonafield, Star-Tribune (Minneapolis)

Impressive . . . Thoughtful . . . Wolff's biography moves deftly from Benton's family history, to Benton's own description of his aesthetic principles, to deft readings of Benton's signature works . . . The achievement of Wolff's biography is to step behind Benton and peer over his shoulder as he tried to paint the America he thought he desired.” ―Joseph Campana, Los Angeles Review of Books

A balanced and insightful reassessment of [a] major, controversial and at times neglected American painter and muralist . . . Justin Wolff has created a scholarly mural of Benton, revealing to us the many facets of the man and the artist within the context of the American and world culture of his time.” ―Lawrence Wayne Markert, The Roanoke Times

“Justin Wolff . . . presents a study of Benton's life and work that is both learned and lively.” ―Jules Wagman, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Wolff writes with the muscular energy of Benton's earthy paintings while performing the more tempered precision of informed and fair analysis as he deciphers the contentiousness and ambiguities of this pugnacious individualist and ornery populist . . . Wolff's is the most illuminating portrait yet of this contrary artist in search of authenticity.” ―Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

[A] comprehensive and critically astute biography . . . A lucid and engaging study of the artist's life in its historical context.” ―Publishers Weekly

Wolff fully and fairly explores Benton's early training and work at home and in Europe, his successes in the 1930s, and his fall from critical--if not public--favor in the 1940s and the postwar period . . . Based on firm research, this book is also accessibly written and is recommended for general readers as well as specialists.” ―Jack Perry Brown, Library Journal

“Justin Wolff's new life of Benton is immensely readable, effortlessly erudite, and, best of all, very perceptive about the ways mature artists become (and stay) artists. He gives us Thomas Hart Benton--paradoxical, combative, underappreciated, and ultimately brilliant--in illuminating detail.” ―Richard Ford

This is the kind of book one slows down to savor. Justin Wolff calls it A Life, and that's what he delivers--not just the facts of Benton's life, fascinating as they are, but the sense of life, the lively feel of time, history, and place. In Thomas Hart Benton, Wolff has found an ideal vehicle to document and dramatize the rapid changes that in a mere lifetime shaped the perception of an American art. This is an engaging, exemplary biography.” ―Stuart Dybek, author of The Coast of Chicago

Justin Wolff's elegant life of the famously belligerent Thomas Hart Benton should be the last word on the subject. This is a fine portrait of the artist in his time--witty, scrupulous, and shrewd.” ―Ward Just, author of An Unfinished Season

“A marvelously thoughtful and graceful portrait of an artist who was thoughtless and graceless--albeit brilliant. Justin Wolff sees past the bluster of Benton's public image and into the heart of a complex and compelling figure whose vision helped define the can-do spirit of America in the first half of the twentieth century.” ―Deborah Solomon, author of Utopia Parkway: The Life and Work of Joseph Cornell

“Despite his cantankerous personality and, later, his unfashionable, often repellent views, Thomas Hart Benton was a central figure in American art in the late 1920s and 1930s. Justin Wolff's captivating biography offers a vivid account of his Midwestern roots; his long apprenticeship in Paris and New York; his influences, ideas, controversies, and friendships; and the circumstances that contributed to his great early murals. This is an engrossing story of a difficult man and an embattled artist who emerged as our most energetic, idiosyncratic figurative painter.” ―Morris Dickstein, author of Dancing in the Dark: A Cultural History of the Great Depression

“Justin Wolff's splendid new biography of Thomas Hart Benton is a brilliant act of artistic restoration. Wolff strips away years of caricature, legend, and neglect to reveal the sweep of his artistic life, from his youth as the misfit scion of a famed political family to his years as a Depression-era artist in New York City playing folk music with Jackson Pollock. Wolff's Benton is vibrant, contradictory, and, in our own era of partisan strife, startlingly contemporary. Thomas Hart Benton is a monumental achievement and a joy to read.” ―Whitney Terrell, author of The King of Kings County

“Justin Wolff has rendered a thoughtful, meticulously composed portrait of a notoriously difficult subject--a man whose life and relationships were every bit as dynamic as the murals that earned Benton fame. Untangling the contradictory elements of Benton's politics and persona, Wolff manages also to capture the complexity of the places and periods that shaped his work. Thomas Hart Benton is an impressive, and welcome, contribution to American cultural history.” ―R. Tripp Evans, author of Grant Wood: A Life

“The outspoken and contradictory Thomas Hart Benton gets his due in this new biography. With admirable clarity, Justin Wolff illuminates the populism of Benton's art and the painter's pugnacious stance toward other artists, museums, and the aesthetics of abstraction.” ―Wanda M. Corn, author of The Great American Thing: Modern Art and National Identity, 1915–1935

About the Author

Justin Wolff is an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Maine. He is the author of Richard Caton Woodville: American Painter, Artful Dodger.

Hero Quick Promo
Holiday Deals in Kindle Books
Save up to 85% on more than 1,000 Kindle Books. These deals are valid until November 30, 2015. Learn more

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux; 1st edition (March 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0374199876
  • ISBN-13: 978-0374199876
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.3 x 9.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #698,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Justin Wolff has been teaching art history at the University of Maine since 2008. He teaches courses on modern, contemporary, and American art as well as art theory and criticism. His research focuses on nineteenth- and twentieth-century American art and culture. Among Justin's publications are Richard Caton Woodville: American Painter, Artful Dodger (Princeton University Press, 2002); "The Politics of American Modernism," a chapter in Art in America: 300 Years of Innovation; and most recently Thomas Hart Benton: A Life, which was published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in 2012. Justin also publishes art criticism and book and exhibition reviews.

Before moving back to Maine, Justin worked as a journalist, taught in the Expository Writing Program at Harvard University, and served as the Joanne Leonhardt Cassullo Assistant Professor of Art History at Roanoke College in Virginia. He has been a National Endowment for the Humanities Research Fellow and served as Director of the University of Maine Humanities Center from 2012-2014.

Justin sits on the Board of Directors for Northeast Historic Film (Bucksport, Maine) and is currently working on several new projects.

B.A., Bowdoin College, 1992
Ph.D., Princeton University, 1999

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Lorna Aldrich on January 20, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
In the first part of the book, the author explains the sources of the artist's style, classical and modern, leading to the "pulsating" nature of the forms in his murals. Having done that, the work becomes repetitive and of necessity a long litany of the people with whom the artist feuded. The author judges the work "banal." Then why write the book?
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Smallridge on August 2, 2012
Format: Hardcover
This is a terrific read about a fascinating artist. Wolff does a nice job of placing Benton into context while highlighting all of his ambiguities (someone who was sexist, homophobic, and politically complex). What struck me most about the book is the way in which Benton, as a staggering genius, came into his own and then slowly was surpassed by other artists. What also struck me is that the work was praised by R. Tripp Evans, who wrote a dull biography on Grant Wood. The contrast between the lively, fighter Benton and the subdued, closeted Wood couldn't be more stark. And, this book makes that clear in a very compelling way.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By murray ngoima on December 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is a valuable resource for someone seeking to understand the "art world" in the United States in the 30s and 40s (and later). It is a thoroughly researched and fascinating focus on the thread of one life story interweaving with its larger context. Thomas Hart Benton is revealed as a complex and complicated person, described with both compassion and objectivity.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By CJ MARTELLO on April 5, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As a Thomas Hart Benton fan for years, I've read many articles and books about his life. This book definitely presents him with all his flaws that he paraded as a peacock for all to see with pride and unbridled lack of humility. His art is eyecatching and the writing in this book flows in the same vein.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Connie RB on March 12, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was hoping for a book on Thomas Hart Benton that I could use with students as I teach them about the artist's life and art. This book was informative, but very wordy and not suitable for elementary and middle school kids. I even had trouble reading it all the way through, didn't have the time available to do so.
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again
Report abuse

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Want to discover more products? Check out these pages to see more: jackson pollock, benton harbor, american artists paris, thomas benton, u.s.a. the 42nd parallel, 1919, the big money