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Thomas Hart Benton: Painting the Song

Leo G. Mazow, associate professor of art history, University of Arkansas, and guitarist, The Coverlets; Brittany Stephenson, singer, The Coverlets. American artist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) used folk and popular song as source material for several of his best-known murals, easel paintings, and prints. Borrowing from such classic tunes as “Jesse James,” “John Henry,” “Wreck of the Old ’97,” and “Frankie and Johnnie,” Benton found in music and lyrics artistic material that could help preserve a quickly vanishing past. In this lecture and music performance presented on November 22, 2015, at the National Gallery of Art, Leo G. Mazow and Brittany Stephenson offer a survey of Benton’s sonic subjects—including train whistles, gunshots, and musical instruments—that figure prominently in his work.