*Starred Review* Adams, author of Eakins Revisited (2005), practices art history with a novelist’s narrative skills and psychological acuity, a sleuth’s instincts, a passion for aesthetic and technical explications, and a gift for sea change interpretations. In this utterly absorbing, carefully reasoned inquiry into the profound relationship between two painters, one reviled, the other worshiped, Adams reclaims the wrongfully maligned Thomas Hart Benton and recalibrates our perception of Jackson Pollock and his masterpieces. Benton hid his true cultured self behind the mask of a “semi-literate hillbilly,” just as his “technical virtuosity” is concealed within his controversial murals. An exemplary teacher as well as a trailblazing artist, Benton was mentor and father figure to Pollock. “It is no exaggeration,” writes Adams, “to say that Benton created Pollock as an artist.” Adams cracks the secret of Benton’s “rhythmic flow” approach to composition, tracing its roots to the forgotten synchromism movement and its colorful creators. Adams then offers arresting insights into Pollock’s life and work, from his utter dependence on Benton and problematic adoration for Benton’s wife to the harrowing consequences of his bipolar disorder and his complex inspirations, from Jungian analysis to Asian mysticism. Encompassing a stunning discovery by his art-historian wife, Adams’ commanding, corrective double portrait reveals myriad camouflaged truths. --Donna Seaman
About the Author
Henry Adams has been singled out by Art News as one of the foremost experts on American painting, and his most recent book, Eakins Revealed, has revolutionized studies of Thomas Eakins, another icon of American art. He collaborated with Ken Burns on a documentary on Benton, which was watched by 20 million viewers on PBS. He is a professor of American art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.