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Thomas Hart Benton


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Product Details

  • Actors: Thomas Hart Benton, Arthur Danto, Hilton Kramer, Karal Marling, Edward R. Murrow
  • Directors: Ken Burns
  • Writers: Geoffrey C. Ward
  • Producers: Ken Burns, Julie Dunfey
  • Format: Color, Widescreen, NTSC
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated: NR (Not Rated)
  • Studio: Pbs Paramount
  • DVD Release Date: September 28, 2004
  • Run Time: 85 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0002JP4RS
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #194,052 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Thomas Hart Benton" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

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See all 12 customer reviews
I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American Art and artists of the 20th Century.
James Markham
This film is enjoyable and interesting even to those who are not especially interested in art history for Benton lead a bold controversial life.
C. Collins
As Ken Burns ably proves, Benton's work captured the spirit and history of the average American man and woman.
Joseph T. Reeves

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Joseph T. Reeves on May 21, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
"Thomas Hart Benton" is a revealing and immensely watchable biography of an artist who probably reached more Americans than any other. As Ken Burns ably proves, Benton's work captured the spirit and history of the average American man and woman.
Combining samples of Benton's work, interviews with art critics, family, friends and enemies as well as footage of Benton himself, Burns presents a perfectly balanced approach to an artist's life and his statement of America as a struggling, vibrant land.
You don't have to like Benton's art to like this film. In fact, several of the critics Burns interviewed for this one-hour documentary dismiss Benton as a serious artist. However, what they say about Benton is as revealing as the praise of critics who revere him. Perfectly balanced and entertaining.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Phil on August 27, 2004
Format: DVD
What is remarkable is what a cohesive story this truly comprehensive bio of THB makes. As all documentarians do, Burns clearly had to help along/trace out the narrative thread, but the brilliance of this particular film is that the story of it just seems to emerge on its own.

Also, the story of THB's death is particularly moving. The entire film is a great intro to THB and is accessible for any audience. Even those who feel distanced from the "aloof" world of art will really enjoy this film. This film opened my eyes to actually appreciate art. Previously I was turned off completely by what I saw (and indeed often still see) as pretension.

SUMMARY: The film traces THB's childhood and early training, his time of formal training in Europe and life in NY. After that, THB rejected the elitist world of the NY art scene and instead went back to Missouri and became one of the triumvirate of American Regionalists (John Stueart Curry and Grant Wood were the other two--FYI GW painted American Gothic, the most famous American painting of a farmer and his daughter, though most people think it's his wife. Anyway, THB's work is in much the same vein--Americana). In his work, THB tried to capture America and all its ambivalences. That's why I say it's honest. Though critics might say he was too "Pollyanna"-ish, I would disagree, and I think you will after seeing this film.

I cannot recommend this film enough. Anyone who is interested in the concept of "America" (you know, the optimism, hope, dream, nightmare, utopia, distopia, democratic promise, dark underbelly--all the contradictory impulses within the myth of America) will find this a vital part of that dialogue.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By James Markham on March 29, 2008
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I originally came across this video at the public library, and have checked it out so many times, I finally decided to buy a copy. I show it to my art appreciation classes for two reasons. Very few Americans know who Thomas Hart Benton was, and what he contributed to American Art. Also, he was a friend and mentor to Jackson Pollock. The documentary is very well done, and enjoyable to watch. I highly recommend it to anyone interested in American Art and artists of the 20th Century.
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Format: DVD
This documentary clarified some things for me. My father told me about all of the Thomas Hart Benton paintings in the town he grew up in, Neosha, Missouri. In fact, one of his closest childhood friends was painted playing baseball in one of the Neosha paintings. What my father failed to tell me was that Benton was from Neosha, which certainly explains why he favored the town with his art. Not that it was unusual for Benton to place his work in small Midwestern towns (though Neosha really is more of a Southern town).

So, because of my father's stories of his childhood, I was always attuned to his art, even though for some reason I never learned much about his life. I knew that he was related to the famous senator Thomas Hart Benton, possibly the most famous senator of his time not to be one of the Great Triumvirate, Henry Clay, Daniel Webster, and John C. Calhoun. Had there been a quartet of great senators instead of the trio, Benton would have been included. I had my interest in Benton's art, if not his life, intensified when I was a student at Yale and took a drive one day to the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain. My then-wife and I went through the first part of the museum, thought that that was all, turned a corner, and discovered a new and huge wing. the portion that most impressed me was a display of a series of huge Benton paintings in a series called "The Arts of Life in America." The size and scope of the paintings were just overwhelming. I loved the energy and personality that radiated from the paintings and I instantly became a bigger fan of his work than I had previously been. What I liked was that his was a unique and entirely personal vision. He was not beholding to particular schools or movements.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C. Collins on January 16, 2013
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
"Thomas Hart Benton", a film by Ken Burns, is an entertaining art history film because Benton was highly outspoken with an oversized personality and opinions that captured the attention of his times and still is an integral component of understanding his art. This film explores various aspects of Benton's career and life. These include his family of origin, one of the pioneer families that established Missouri; his development as an artist in Paris under the influence of Kandinsky, Delaney, and the Impressionists; the establishment of his landmark style of painting through his study of Renaissance painters Titian and especially Tintoretto; and his artistic achievements as a painter of vast murals for public buildings, his oil on canvas paintings, his superb drawings, and his lithographic prints. His family life is also explored including the immense influence his wife Rita had on his stability and output. Interviews with his daughter and in-laws reveal the family man; interviews with his students reveal his influence; and interviews with the critics, such as Hilton Kramer, reveal the place he holds in American art history.

The film explores Benton as a man and as an artist. To some extent it emphasizes the biographical rather than the art historical, which is understandable considering the robust personality that Benton displayed in public.

Benton's grandfather, also named Thomas Hart Benton, was the first Senator of the state of Missouri when it became a state and is famous for having a shoot out in a bar with Andrew Jackson. Jackson received a wound in that fight that resulted in a bullet embedded in his rib-cage that was not removed until years later when he was President in the White House.
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