ONE OF THE distinguishing features of Benton’s art is the clear evidence,
in both his selection of subjects and his treatment of them, of dear and
incessantly active intellect. He has not merely reacted: he has thought.
He has not merely put his forms down: he has considered their significance as realities.
In contradistinction to those far too numerous artists who seem to have
started with a desire to paint, or make etchings, or produce lithographs,
Benton would seem to have started out with a wealth of observed living, and
then to have worked out a brilliant and apposite technique for expressing it.
The result -for he is a subtle and sensitive artist-is work that has both pictorial beauty
is a very striking exemplar of Benton’s style.
The gaunt, gangling, and humorously seen fiddler, the obviously romantic blond,
and the well-brushed farmer out for a gala Saturday night are
unmistakable figures out of the southern Middle West.
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The enigmatic figure in the background, arms raised overhead,
supplies the touch of imminent hysteria, the suggestion of
cruel repressions about to break out in meaningless and
unhealthy ecstasy, that are always likely at such affairs. The bareness of the board floor and ceiling,
white window casing, and oil lamp would have produced a dead, unenlivened dicur in themselves.
Benton’s very successful way of making them contribute to the
somewhat feverish quality of his subject is a perspective distortion
that ought to answer once and for all the art vs. photography
argument insofar as it applies to pinning down the essential character of scenes.