#130 - Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975)
Cover illustration for We, the People, by Leo Huberman (1903-1968).
Lot includes first edition of the book, with original dust jacket, copyright 1932.
The United States in the nineteen-thirties saw a revival of Americanism in art. Regionalist artist, Thomas Hart Benton, was at the forefront of this movement, capturing the spirit and politics of the time. He stated that the regionalists "symbolized aesthetically what the majority of Americans had in mind--America, itself." Benton's cover illustration for Leo Huberman's We, the People optimizes these ideals, and brings to life this controversial narrative of the American people, displaying the bold, vivid colors and characters Benton is known for.
Huberman first met Benton while working as a young educator in New York City in the late twenties and early thirties. The two became good friends, and remained friends the rest of their lives. At the beginning of this relationship, Huberman began writing We, the People, a very different kind of history--one that emphasized the lives and work of common people, written in an exciting, engaging style. He asked his new friend, Benton, to illustrate the book for him. Benton, who also believed in promoting the common man, heartily agreed, and produced a large number of black-and-white drawings to illustrate the major themes of the book. He also painted the dust jacket cover illustration in oil, a sympathetic portrayal of the common American working class. Published in 1932 by Harper and Brothers, the book was quite popular. It was later revised for adults, especially for the purpose of labor education.
Benton's painting for We, the People has remained with the Huberman family since its creation, and has never been offered on the market. Huberman's nephew, Joel Huberman recalls seeing the painting on the wall of his uncle's Greenwich Village home in the late forties, where it remained until the writer's death in 1968. Joel's family inherited the painting, and it hung on their wall in Maplewood, New Jersey until 1995, at which time the work passed to Joel, who has owned it since that time. The work was exhibited only once, at Kean College in New Jersey, sometime during the seventies or eighties.
This work will be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne being
prepared by the Thomas Hart Benton Catalogue Raisonne Foundation.
Committee members include Dr. Henry Adams, Jessie Benton, Anthony Benton
Gude and Michael Owen.
Condition: Very good with some minor touch up in the background.Original frame
Dimensions: Oil on Canvas Board, 17"x25"
Estimate: $100,000 - $150,000
Price Realized: $235,750
High Res Photo Detailed Photo 1
Detailed Photo 2 Detailed Photo 3
Up for auction on September 26, 2009