Thomas Hart Benton W.M.A. 1906-07


T.H. Benton, Noted Artist, Remembers Fine Teacher Here
Thomas Hart Benton, the famous Missouri artist, was a cadet here in 1906. In a recent book, "The Teacher", edited by Morris Ernst (Prentice-Hall, $4.95), which relates classroom experiences of prominent persons, Mr. Benton pays tribute to one of his W.M.A. teachers. He said, "I believe the teacher who made what is perhaps the most decisive impression in my life, the one who occasioned a most decisive turn therein, was a portly, white-haired lady who caught me in my seventeenth year when I was putting in a sojourn at a military academy at Alton, Illinois.
"She was the head of the English department at that place, and she undertook to relieve my general restlessness and boredom with the military business by introducing me to English poetry. She took me not only in her regular classes, but after school hours in her home in town, where she coaxed me into reading Wordsworth, Shelley, Keats, Rosetti, and other poets of that time. Robert Browning was her special love, and it was through Browning's poems about Italian painters and her romantic enthusiasm that she made an impact upon me."
Mrs. Beall, librarian, says the teacher Mr. Benton referred to was probably Mrs. Mary K. Dodge.
This information was sent to Col. Jackson by Miss Helen Wilkinson. She has been director of music in the Evansville schools. She is the daughter of the late Major Robert E. Wilkinson, who for forty years was the beloved head of the mathematics department, principal, and Dean of the Faculty. He died in 1943. Thanks to Miss Wilkinson for the information about Thomas Hart Benton.


THOMAS HART BENTON, FORMER CADET, CAUSES ARGUMENT ABOUT ART
Mr. Thomas Hart Benton, Missouri artist, has been the subject of much attention and criticism concerning his murals for the Missouri state capitol building at Jefferson City. Mr. Benton attended Western in 1910 and will be remembered by cadets of that year. He has not been closely associated with the academy since he left, but in view of his recent role in the mural controversy we feel an interest in him.
Benton recently completed a series of mural paintings, taking two years to finish, for the capitol building. These are excellent paintings, but they seem to merit more than usual explanation to Missouri citizens. Many prominent figures in Missouri's historical past and present may be seen in poses which Benton says show them "doing the things they ordinarily do, when not on parade." Head of the painting department of the Kansas City Art Institute, Mr. Benton defends queries as to the ideals of his work with the words "that using idealistic art with a realistic medium is naturally shocking in its breaking up of tradition."
Acceptance of his murals by the Missourians is still pending, although critics from an art standpoint call them excellent. A few of these works were reproduced several weeks ago in a St. Louis Sunday paper. The March 3rd issue of pictorial "Life" devoted several pages to full-color copies and discussion of Benton's efforts.
The arguments about Benton's paintings center around such questions as this: "Why did he include the political boss, Tom Pendergast, and omit General Pershing, both of whom are Missourians?"
Benton answered that Pershing is not a part of the Missouri social background while Pendergast is.

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