8 Wonders of Kansas art

An 8 Wonder of Kansas Art

A Thomas Hart Benton painting, Spencer Art Museum, Lawrence

Address: 1301 Mississippi Street, Lawrence, Kansas 66045
Phone: 785.864.4710
Website: www.spencerart.ku.edu

Benton's Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley was chosen as an 8 Wonders of Kansas Art finalist because it is a quintessential painting of an American scene, it is one of the artist's most representative pieces, and it is an outstanding example of regionalism, an American art movement.

Following is an excellent description of the famous painting. There's a murder in progress in the Spencer Museum of Art - but relax, it occurs in a painting. Thomas Hart Benton's 1934 work The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley illustrates a traditional Ozark folksong, rendering a tragic tale in vibrant color.

Benton's vivid composition pulses with energy. Bands of color containing musical notes connect two scenes. In the song, a man stabs his lover in a jealous rage only to discover too late that he doubted her unjustly. In the painting, a vivid composition pulsing with energy, the two central figures are set in a hilly, moonlit rural landscape reminiscent of Kansas. Seated on the ground, the woman looks up in surprise as she clutches her chest. A man hovers over her, his face contorted with anger, grasping a bloody knife in his over-sized hand. In contrast to this violent event, a somber-faced trio of country musicians gathers around a table in the lower right corner. Bands of color containing musical notes connect the two scenes.

Benton painted what he knew best: rural Midwestern life. Experts consider The Ballad of the Jealous Lover to be one of his hallmark works. Acquired in 1958, the oil and tempera work continues to be one of the prime attractions in the Spencer's internationally known collection of nearly 36,000 objects. A little-known fact about the painting is that the model for the young harmonica player on the left was Benton's friend and former student Jackson Pollock, an icon of the Abstract Expressionist movement.

Benton, 1889-1975, was born in Missouri and in 1908 moved to Paris, then to New York. He adopted a style that showed ordinary people doing common things. Portraits, landscapes, and scenes of people at work on farms, in factories, and in busy cities were his trademarks. His unique style made him the leader of the American art movement called regionalism. From 1935 until his death in 1975, he lived in Kansas City, Missouri.

Source of information: Courtesy Spencer Museum of Art


Full credit information for The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley:

Thomas Hart Benton


Born Neosho, Missouri; died Kansas City, Missouri

The Ballad of the Jealous Lover of Lone Green Valley, 1934
oil, tempera on canvas mounted on aluminum panel
Museum purchase: Elizabeth M. Watkins Fund, 1958.0055

Location: Spencer Museum is on the Kansas University campus, behind the student union

Contact: spencerart@ku.edu; 785.864.4710

Hours and admission fee: Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m.-8 p.m.; Sunday 1-5 p.m. Hours subject to change during holidays and academic breaks.