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Born into a family of refined politicians, Thomas Hart Benton chose a much different path for his life.

He ended up a hard drinking hillbilly with a penchant for paint and rejoiced at any opportunity to bash American history and politics. He was a bit rough around the edges and tended to make more enemies than friends as he was so rude. Lovely, huh?

Benton was a teacher for quite some time, which may come as a shock considering his lack of social skills. His most well known student was Jackson Pollock. While it may seen like a great accomplishment to learn under such a talented artist, Pollock claims that all Benton did for him was teach him about they type of traditional art he would later rebel against (kind of a slap in the face to Benton). Turns out he rubbed many students and school administrators the wrong way and was ultimately fired from his position at the Kansas City Art Institute for making homophobic comments. Apparently he called them “the third sex." Not cool.

His disposition towards raw honesty did get him in trouble from time to time. When asked to paint a mural about life in Indiana, Benton created a painting filled with members of the Ku Klux Klan in full regalia. Needless to say, this caused quite a stir amongst the public. I guess Indiana residents weren’t too stoked with the fact that their culture was being immortalized by such brutality and negativity, but that’s just Benton’s style for you. He wasn't the type to sugar coat or not say what he thought.

Some other fun facts about Benton include:

  • He was a very talented harmonica musician
  • There is a Ken Burns documentary about him
  • He was the first artist to make the cover of Time Magazine 

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Here is what Wikipedia says about Thomas Hart Benton (painter)

Thomas Hart Benton (April 15, 1889 – January 19, 1975) was an American painter, muralist, and printmaker. Along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry, he was at the forefront of the Regionalist art movement. The fluid, sculpted figures in his paintings showed everyday people in scenes of life in the United States.

His work is strongly associated with the Midwestern United States, the region in which he was born and which he called home for most of his life. He also studied in Paris, lived in New York City for more than 20 years and painted scores of works there, summered for 50 years on Martha's Vineyard off the New England coast, and also painted scenes of the American South and West.

Check out the full Wikipedia article about Thomas Hart Benton (painter)