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First Crop

Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion

First Crop

Artist: Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975)
Culture: American
Date: 1944
Medium: Gouache on paper
21 x 29 3/4 inches (53.3 x 75.6 cm)
Classification: Painting
Credit Line: Bequest of Louise and Alvin Myerberg
Label Text:Born in Missouri to a prominent Midwestern family, Thomas Hart Benton is known for paintings of rural American life. Emerging in the 1920s, Benton, along with his contemporaries Grant Wood and John Stuart Curry, focused on agricultural scenes, rural landscapes, and country laborers and, as a result, came to be known as the Regionalists. Regionalism coincided with heightened nationalism in the United States, and was reflected in the popularity of images of rural American culture.

In the early 1940s, Benton was one of several artists commissioned by the American Tobacco Company to create idyllic scenes of tobacco production for advertising. The earliest paintings Benton submitted, most likely including First Crop, depicted tobacco harvesting by impoverished African American farmers. The American Tobacco Company considered the work unacceptable, and Benton was asked to make changes. The result was a much different painting, Tobacco Sorters, showing a white farmer and his daughter, which nevertheless included the composition of First Crop in the background.

Object number: 2010.3.1