Featuring Works by Thomas Hart Benton from the U.S. Naval and Heritage Command
Moved by the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, Benton completed seven large paintings known as the “Year of Peril” series. These were published as books and posters by Abbott Laboratories – a pharmaceutical company that was producing necessary and improved drugs for the war effort. The president of the company found a way to give back to the war effort by sponsoring artists to depict military subject matter for use by the Department of Defense public relations. For Abbott Labs, Benton created 25 artworks, showcasing what he witnessed on board the submarine USS Dorado and LSTs along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. These original paintings and drawings were turned over by Abbott Labs to the Navy and comprise the artwork within this exhibition.
Benton was the son of a Congressman from the state of Missouri and the namesake of one of the first Senators from that state. His extensive career started with studying at the Art Institute of Chicago in 1908 before moving to Europe to experiment with Expressionism, Cubism and other styles. Returning stateside in 1912, he continued his career in Missouri and New York City. Late in World War I, he joined the Navy as a draftsman which the artist claims shifted his attention back to the objective style for his artwork. Working on the East Coast and Midwest, he became a Regionalist painter – depicting Americans as “down to earth” types showing their everyday actions and appearance.
These narrative works are accompanied by WWII collections from the Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum, the Lawrence County Historical Society and veterans from all branches.
Photo Credit: “She’s Off”, 1944, by Thomas Hart Benton, watercolor on paper, courtesy of the Navy Art Collection
The Art & Objects of World War II is on display, January 2-March 21, 2024. Guided tours are available by calling 724.652.2882. Visiting hours are Tuesdays-Thursdays, 11 am – 8 pm and Fridays & Saturdays, 11 am – 4 pm. Daily admission is free.
Curriculum & Lesson Plans are available digitally for grades 9-12 and may be adapted for younger students. Guided Tours are available for field trips. Call 724.652.2882 to schedule.
Preparing this exhibit has allowed the staff to discover the history and stories behind the Art & Objects of World War II – more than we could ever include in our galleries. We’ve compiled some of our favorites into a series of blogs
Salute to Military Families
Thursday, February 29, 6-8 pm
Activities and tours for active military families! Register for free family membership with your military ID. Featuring a Q&A session with WWII veteran, Wally King.
Gallery Talk: The Naval Art of Thomas Hart Benton
Presented by Dr. Henry Adams, January 25, 6 pm.
Join Case Western Professor, Henry Adams, for a lively discussion on Benton’s role as a Navy Artist. Adams earned his M.A. and PH.D. from Yale, where he received the Frances Blanshard Prize for the best doctoral dissertation in art history. He is the author of over 300 scholarly and popular articles including Tom and Jack: The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock.
Gallery Talk: Artists at War
Presented by Andrew Henley, Thursday, February 15, 6 pm.
Join local historian, Andrew Henley, for insight into the artists varied response to war over the centuries. A Westminster graduate, Henley earned his MA in Library and Information Science from the University of Pittsburgh and currently serves as the Director of the New Castle Public Library.
Gallery Walk: The Stories behind the Soldiers and Sailors
Presented by Michael Kraus, Thursday, March 7, 6 pm.
Join the Soldiers & Sailors Museum’s Curator, Michael Kraus, for a walking tour through the museum’s collection displayed at the Hoyt. He’ll provide insight into the objects and the stories behind them.
Interested in visiting the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Hall and Museum? Click here for info.