Labor is one of the most prevalent themes in Regionalist art, and in art of the American South. In its more common form, such artistic treatments of Southern labor reflect a Romantic atmosphere of untroubled simplicity associated with agrarian subsistence life. This notion, with its dignified overtones, becomes skewed, however, when seen by Thomas Hart Benton in this field sketch of African American prisoners conducting forced labor under the supervision of an armed white guard. This is an excellent example of how Benton’s particular skill in selecting a singular moment in time resulted in artworks which often blur the line between objective documentation and social commentary. The subject of chain gang workers, with its rhythmic movement and fluid, earth-toned color scheme, appears in several other compositions by the artist.
Thomas Hart Benton
Wright Collection of Southern Art
Still Image Item Type Metadata
graphite and ink on paper
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