Study for Steel, from America Today


Benton, Thomas Hart, Study for Steel, from America Today
Photo Credit: 

Laura Shea   

On View
Benton, Thomas Hart
American (1889-1975)
Place made: 
North America; United States
Study for Steel, from America Today, 1930
Oil on canvas mounted on board
Frame: 20 1/8 in x 23 1/2 in x 1 1/8 in; 51.1 cm x 59.7 cm x 2.9 cm; Board: 13 1/4 in x 16 3/4 in; 33.7 cm x 42.5 cm
Purchase with the Warbeke Art Museum Fund and the Belle and Hy Baier Art Acquisition Fund
MH 2010.5

Thomas Hart Benton’s study for the finished painting Steel, one of ten murals in his famed America Today cycle, depicts the rugged labor and powerful machinery used in processing iron ore. The dramatic background, with towering blast furnace, flaming bessemer converter, and molten metal spilling into ingot molds, demonstrates Benton’s familiarity with this industry. Likely developed from sketches he made at Bethlehem Steel in Sparrows Point, Maryland, Benton's study also captures the contorted bodies and mechanical gestures of the steelworkers, suggesting both the skill and exploitation of this workforce.

Now in the collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the America Today murals were commissioned in 1930 for New York’s New School for Social Research. The project established Benton as the nation’s leading muralist, and he is credited with spurring the mural program of the Works Project Administration (WPA) in the mid-1930s.

-Hannah Blunt, Associate Curator, Mount Holyoke College Art Museum (Sept. 2017)