Lot 45
  • 45

Thomas Hart Benton

1,000,000 - 1,500,000 USD
1,152,500 USD
bidding is closed


  • Thomas Hart Benton
  • Across the Curve of the Road
  • indistinctly signed Benton (lower right)
  • oil and tempera on canvas mounted on panel by the artist
  • 23  1/2  x 29  1/2  inches


Associated American Artists, New York
Private collection (acquired from the above)
Galleries Maurice Sternberg, Chicago, Illinois
Acquired by the present owner from the above, by 1973


New York, Associated American Artists, Thomas Hart Benton: Recent Works, April 1941
Montgomery, Alabama, Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts; Washington, D.C., Corcoran Gallery of Art; Indianapolis, Indiana, Indianapolis Museum of Art; San Diego, California, San Diego Museum of Art, Art Inc: American Paintings from Corporate Collections, March-December 1979, p. 88, illustrated p. 89

Catalogue Note

Born in Neosho, Missouri in 1889, Thomas Hart Benton was raised in America’s heartland and rose to prominence as a painter of daily life in rural America. His sympathetic portrayals of the strength, courage and dignity of American farmers helped propel him into the spotlight during the Great Depression. The term “Regionalist School” was first used to describe the work of Benton, Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry during a joint exhibition held in 1934, and Across the Curve of the Road exemplifies Benton’s distinctive version of this uniquely American style.  

In the summer of 1938, while his wife and son were abroad, Benton planned to spend a few months on the road immersing himself in the culture of rural America. With his friend and colleague James Fitzgerald, who, like Benton, taught at the Kansas City Art Institute, the artist set off on a sketching tour of Louisiana, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and North Carolina. In the fields, farms and small towns of the rural south, Benton made hundreds of sketches depicting the struggle for existence that was the brutal day-to-day life for so many Americans in the 1930s. These sketches provided a rich source of material and served as the basis for several finished works. 

Benton based Across the Curve of the Road on a sketch made during the Arkansas leg of his 1938 journey. Using broad contour lines for the ridges of the earth and the curves of the clouds, he captures the unique yet familiar landscape of the region. When considered in its entirety, the work succeeds as an expression of Benton’s stated artistic ideal: “I believe I have wanted, more than anything else, to make pictures, the imagery of which would carry unmistakably American meanings for Americans and for as many of them as possible” (as quoted in Matthew Baigell, Thomas Hart Benton, 1973, New York, p. 87). 

In a letter discussing the present work Benton wrote, “Circumstances - I was driving in a car with another fellow in Newton County, when we had to stop to let a kid get his milk cow across the road. The kid said ‘You have to look both ways here because the road curves.’ So - the title of [the] picture. Roads in those days were not paved. They were dirt, gravel and clay. But there were enough automobiles going over them to cause cattle problems. That’s all there is to the picture. Just rural America in the face of progress. - God damn progress.” 

Benton’s letter will accompany this lot.