Night Firing

7:00 AM

Thomas Hart Benton, Night Firing, 1943 
By GARY WHITTAKER

I, as hopefully all Missourians, have a great love of Benton. His depictions of the Midwest were some of the first artistic creations of the region since George Birmingham nearly a century before. While his regionalism may have had allowed many along the coasts to dismiss Benton, this is completely undeserved as his depictions represent the hardscrabble life that is often forgotten by the East Coast intelligentsia. The story of the Midwest is one that must be told, while it lacks the panache and dazzle of the coasts, it is the gritty work of farmers that keeps this nation running.


The etching presented here is very typical Benton's work. A single object, in this case the man, serves as the center post of an agrarian merry-go-round. All things swirl around the man emphasizing both his artistic and real world importance. The print is balanced rather well on both axis. On the horizontal the large tobacco shed is counter weighted by the small structure and the hay bale, averaging the eye back to the farmer. Black earth cements the work to the bottom half, while the darkening sky on the edges keeps the eye of the matters at hand.  

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