American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood

February 6, 2016May 1, 2016


The first major exhibition in more than twenty-five years to feature the life and works of the renowned American painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889¬1975), American Epics: Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood explores the previously overlooked relationship between Benton’s art and movie making.

Benton’s associations with the film industry began on the silent film sets of Fort Lee, New Jersey—the first “Hollywood”—and extended to an intimate career-long association with Hollywood’s movers and shakers.

Benton’s awareness that movies were the best and most popular means of telling American tales inspired a signature artistic style that melded centuries-old traditions with movie-production techniques to create images that appealed to a broad range of Americans.

The exhibition brings together nearly 100 works by Benton, including more than thirty of his paintings and murals, as well as a selection of his drawings, prints, and illustrated books in juxtaposition with scenes from some of Hollywood’s greatest films.

The Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Massachusetts, organized this exhibition in collaboration with the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. The exhibition was made possible in part by Bank of America and a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities: Celebrating 50 years of excellence, with additional support from the National Endowment for the Arts. The exhibition is supported by an indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities.

All images by Thomas Hart Benton licensed by [VAGA, New York, NY](

Look for an area in the galleries where you can create your own Benton-like scene using different backgrounds, lighting, and figures. Take a picture of your creation and share it on social media using #ACMbenton. All ages are invited to participate.

Large print labels are available for use in the exhibition.

Free tours of this exhibition take place on Thursday through Sunday at 3 p.m. and begin at the exhibition entrance on the second floor. No reservations are required.

Visit the museum’s Research Library to learn more about Benton. The Library offers public hours on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Thursdays from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m.