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The Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri, which has trained or employed artists including Thomas Hart Benton, Robert Rauschenberg and Nick Cave and is celebrating its 130th anniversary, announced Tuesday that it had received a donation of $25 million, one of the largest gifts ever to an American art school.

The money, from a donor who has asked to remain anonymous, will be used to bolster the school’s general endowment, improve and renovate its campus adjacent to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and, in the form of a challenge grant of $6 million, sharply increase the number of scholarships the school is able to give out.

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Do you ever think about what makes a good story—for a painting? American artist Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) did. A century ago, Benton wanted to become the major American artist of his day. Although trained in Chicago and Paris and a member of the vanguard modern art community in New York around 1915, Benton had yet to make the kind of defining contribution to the art world that his ancestors Senator Thomas Hart Benton and John Charles Fremont had made to American political history. Casting about for opportunities, the ambitious painter looked to Fort Lee, New Jersey—the “first Hollywood.” He started working there on silent-era motion-picture productions in various artistic capacities, such as painting sets for director Rex Ingram. The appeal of the emerging motion picture industry and its influential new form of storytelling were clear to Benton. Epic themes such as cultural identity, westward expansion, tolerance, and the American Dream were worthy of movie screens—why not canvas (Fig. 1)?

Benton developed a cinematic painting style to communicate stories about American history and society as memorably as the movies. He learned to capture qualities intrinsic to motion pictures: the illusion of three-dimensional space; rhythmic motion; the glow of projected light...

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A suburban Kansas City school district has found a new home for a Thomas Hart Benton painting that it was keeping locked up because it was considered too valuable to display at a school.

The painting "Utah Highlands" will be on long-term loan at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, starting in late April, the school and museum announced this past week.

The Shawnee Mission School District had kept the painting in a vault for safekeeping after it was appraised at $700,000. Students who donated the painting in 1957 as a class gift began asking where the painting was after The Kansas City Star reported earlier this year that it was no longer being displayed.

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The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York has put its epic, 1930’s Thomas Hart Benton mural cycle, “America Today,” on display in its American wing for the first time since it received the cycle from AXA Equitable Life Insurance company in 2012.

“America Today,” one of Benton’s most famous works and considered one of the most significant American works of its period, was painted by the artist in 1930 and 1931 for the boardroom of the modernist, Greenwich Village building of the New School for Social Research.

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This exhibition celebrates the gift of Thomas Hart Benton's epic mural America Today from AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in December 2012. Benton (1889–1975) painted this mural for New York's New School for Social Research to adorn the school's boardroom in its International Style modernist building on West 12th Street. Showing a sweeping panorama of American life throughout the 1920s, America Today ranks among Benton's most renowned works and is one of the most remarkable accomplishments in American art of the period.

The ten-panel mural will be featured in a space that recreates the boardroom in which it originally hung.

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The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York is giving thanks to generations of benefactors with the exhibition “Shaping a Collection: Five Decades of Gifts.” Since the institution was founded in 1930, its permanent collection has grown primarily through the generosity of individual donors, beginning with sculptor Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s founding gift, which included over 500 works by artists such as Thomas Hart Benton, George Bellows, Stuart Davis, Edward Hopper, Maurice Prendergast, and John Sloan. Whitney continued to add to the museum’s collection throughout her lifetime and in 1948, the institution began accepting gifts from outside sources.

Since the Whitney’s Marcel Breuer-designed building opened to the public in 1931, its permanent collection has expanded from about 2,300 objects to more than 21,000. It is estimated that nearly two-thirds of the institution’s collection, including some of its most iconic holdings, were donated by museum trustees, collectors, foundations, and artists. While “Shaping a Collection” represents a small portion of the gifts received by the Whitney, the exhibition honors all of the benefactors who have helped make the Whitney’s collection what it is today.

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It looks like an art exhibit, when in fact it’s a family tree.

“The Richman Gifts: American Impressionism and Realism,” now at the Norton Museum of Art, is a window into how generations of early 20th century American painters influenced one another.

This collection of 11 paintings given to the museum — a “promised gift” from trustees Priscilla and John Richman upon their passing — allows you to follow how two schools of early American artists developed on different vines.

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On January 18, the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art will present the exhibition ‘At First Sight: Collecting the American Watercolor.’ The show will explore Crystal Bridges’ founder Alice Walton’s affinity for watercolors and how her early interest in the medium helped shape her future as one of the most important collectors of American art.

‘At First Sight’ will features some of the works that sparked Walton’s earliest collecting interests including paintings by Thomas Hart Benton, John Singer Sargent, Winslow Homer, Andrew Wyeth and Georgia O’Keeffe. Walton will loan a portion of her private collection to the museum for the exhibition.

‘At First Sight’ will be on view at the Crystal Bridges Museum through April 21, 2014. Admission to the exhibition will be free.

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The Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College in Ohio is presenting the exhibition Regarding Realism, which traces the history of the movement back to its inception in mid-19th century France. The exhibition will include works by Realist pioneers such as Gustave Courbet, Jean-Francois Millet and Charles-Francois Daubigny who shared a goal to depict the world around them, including ordinary people performing day-to-day activities, faithfully.

Regarding Realism includes American artworks as the desire to capture immediate experiences rather than contrived scenes soon caught on across the Atlantic. Highlights include prints by American Regionalists Grant Wood and Thomas Hart Benton as well as gritty, urban scenes by members of the Aschan School like John Sloan and George Luks.

Regarding Realism will be on view at the Allen Memorial Museum through June 22, 2014.

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Collectors Charles and Irene Hamm have donated $1 million and 165 works from their collection of coastal art to the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, CT. The collection includes oil paintings by Robert Henri, Thomas Hart Benton and Rockwell Kent as well as watercolors by Fairfield Porter and William Trost Richards. The generous monetary gift will help fund the construction of an 18,000-square-foot New Wing, which will include a Charles and Irene Hamm Gallery. The bequest will also increase the museum’s endowments for operations and acquisitions.

John R. Rathgeber, Chairman of the museum’s Board of Trustees, said, “With the donation of Charles and Irene Hamm, the New Britain Museum will have one of the most outstanding collections of coastal art in the country.” The museum plans to hold thematic exhibitions drawn from the Hamm’s holdings. A number of the significant works will be loaned to other institutions throughout the country and, in the future, the New Britain Museum plans to organize a traveling exhibition of highlights from the Hamm Collection.

Charles Hamm, a successful advertising and financial mogul, and his wife Irene, an educator, have been collecting for several decades. Charles’ affinity for maritime scenes was spurred by his love of sailing.

Construction is expected to begin on the New Britain Museum’s New Wing in 2014.

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