Thomas Hart Benton and the Indiana Murals

Thomas Hart Benton and the Indiana Murals

Kathleen A. Foster, Nanette Esseck Brewer and Margaret Contompasis
Distribution: World
Publication date: 03/04/2008
Format: Paperback 127 b&w photos, 52 color photos
ISBN: 978-0-253-33760-3
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Decorating the Indiana hall at the 1933 Century of Progress Exposition in Chicago was a bold and colorful sequence of paintings by American muralist Thomas Hart Benton depicting the social, economic, and cultural history of the Hoosier state from mound building to the 1930s. In this dramatic 250-foot mural, which has been on display at the Bloomington campus of Indiana University since 1940, Benton sought to create art that spoke to a mainstream audience in a realist style.

This book features a full-color gatefold which represents the flow of the murals along with a portfolio of color reproductions of the 22 existing panels. Accompanying essays trace the history of the murals' creation and their installation at Indiana University, the visual narrative that Benton invented, the artist's method as seen in a series of preparatory drawings, and a detailed account of the conservation of the murals.

Author Bio

Kathleen A. Foster is the Robert L. McNeil, Jr., Curator of American Art and Director of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. She lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Nanette Esseck Brewer is Lucienne M. Glaubinger Curator of Works on Paper at the Indiana University Art Museum. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

Margaret Contompasis is Gayl W. and Beverly Doster Conservator of Painting at the Indiana University Art Museum. She lives in Bloomington, Indiana.


“This full-color masterpiece traces the history of Thomas Hart Benton's bold and colorful murals, their creation and their installation at Indiana University. A wonderful addition to the Hoosier bookshelf!”

“President Wells saw the Fine Arts Plaza, with the IU Auditorium and its Hall of Murals at its center, as the campus's 'cultural crossroads.' This 75th anniversary publication celebrates Wells' earlier vision for our university and reaffirms our commitment to making the arts an integral part of Indiana University's master plan for the future.”
 — Michael McRobbie, President, Indiana University

“In capturing Indiana's past, the Thomas Hart Benton murals speak to the future. They express the hopes and dreams of people who lived before us, and they bring those messages—captured in color and line—to us in the present. Thanks to the wonderful restoration of these murals, they will speak to generations to come as vividly and eloquently as they do today.”
 — Curt Simic, President, Indiana University Foundation

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Table of Contents

ix Forewords
Michael McRobbie, Myles Brand, Kenneth R. R. Gros Louis, Curt Simic, and Karen Hanson
4 Acknowledgments
Adelheid M. Gealt, Winston Shindell, and Doug Booher
7 Thomas Hart Benton and the Indiana Murals
Kathleen A. Foster
Gatefold: The Indiana Murals
33 Color Plates: The Indiana Murals and Related Drawings
81 The Anatomy of a Mural: Thomas Hart Benton's Preparatory Drawings
Nanette Esseck Brewer
115 The Physical History and Conservation Treatment of Thomas Hart Benton's Indiana Murals
Margaret Contompasis
137 Benton as Hoosier Historian: Constructing a Visual Narrative in the Indiana Murals
Nanette Esseck Brewer
182 Checklist of Preparatory Drawings in the Indiana University Art Museum
190 Archival Sources and Bibliography
197 Index