Westward: Hollywood

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Thomas Hart Benton, Hollywood, 1937
Westward
BY REID GUEMMER

What better way to end our series on American expansion and iconic images of the country than to discuss Thomas Hart Benton's Hollywood. Missouri born, Benton shifted from the New York scene to portraying his roots and Midwestern life. Although Benton primarily focused on the everyday person, here he widens his scope to portray a vignette of behind-the-scenes Hollywood.

Benton's iconic style developed from his synchronist influence. He attempted to intertwine music by creating a fluid motion through his work, especially in the way he paints bodies. The signature style is achieved through the sculpting of muscles in a fashion that flows so naturally.

The rich colors and hectic scene show the scramble west. Beginning with manifest destiny, people adopted the idea that westward expansion was a right and one that they would take advantage of. The west represents the potential for new opportunities. Hollywood played a central part in representing the ideal American Dream, whether through celebrity lifestyle or what was presented by the media. The woman being the focus of the painting while there are other people working without much recognition parallel how, today, we focus only on a small group of people (celebrities) while most of the country goes unnoticed. Despite the chaos, the woman is still the focal point.

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