White Calf

Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889 – 1975)
Plate : 10 x 12 3/4 in. (25.4 x 32.38 cm)
Mat : 16 x 20 in. (40.64 x 50.8 cm)
Sheet : 18 1/2 x 20 1/2 in. (46.99 x 52.07 cm)
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Gift of Orville C Beattie
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With his back to viewers, a farmer sits on a stool to milk a cow while she calmly munches grass. Below her muzzle a white calf rests on the ground, asleep. In the background, rolling clouds surround the farmstead that occupies the work's middle ground. Although it represents a mundane task, White Calf contains an element of tranquility, even sacrality. The docile scene is a celebration of the American Midwestern landscape and hints at the Regionalist movement Thomas Benton helped to initiate in the 1930’s. Through this “American Scene” movement, Benton vehemently opposed modernism and spoke against the abstract art that prevailed in Europe and New York. Instead, Benton favored a realistic and representational style. Benton’s focus on the American narratives led him to rediscover distinctly American subjects by highlighting characteristics of small country towns and embracing American small town values. [Emily Lindbloom 2020]

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