“Forward Pass” depicts the Kansas City Chiefs’ only Super Bowl victory in the unmistakable style of Thomas Hart Benton.
It is one of five lithographs that the Kansas City Museum has pulled out of its archives to mark the 125th anniversary of the birth of the man who is “arguably the most famous painter from Missouri,” according to a free exhibit that opened this weekend at Corinthian Hall.
It is the first of many planned Benton events, including an exhibit opening May 21 at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
“I thought, we’ve got these lithographs that actually came from his estate when he died, and I didn’t think we’d ever displayed them,” said Denise Morrison, site director for the Kansas City Museum. “I thought this was the perfect opportunity.”
The museum decided to expand the display to include other rarely seen pieces of art in its collection, including works by George Caleb Bingham.
“History museums having fine art is always for a different reason than the Nelson would have it,” Morrison said. “We collect it because it was by a local artist or of a local subject.”
“The Kansas City Canvas: Thomas Hart Benton and Beyond,” opens with an oversized Works Progress Administration painting, by an unknown artist, of the City Market in the 1930s. It welcomes visitors at the top of the staircase in the mansion at 3218 Gladstone Blvd. that awaits restoration.
Another oversized painting called “The Junction,” by James FitzGibbon, depicts the 800 block of Main Street in 1893, when a triangular building stood in the area now known for the “Muse of the Missouri” fountain.
“The Kansas City Canvas” is being staged as the management of the museum is in transition from Union Station to the Kansas City parks department. Museum officials want the public to know it is still vibrant and offering programming.
There are 21 pieces of art in the exhibit, which can be viewed only on a tour, as well as other curiosities, such as FitzGibbon’s paintbox and a lock of his hair.
Other Benton lithographs on display are “The Hymn Singer” depicting Burl Ives, “Making Camp on the Buffalo River,” “Discussion” and “The Benton Farm.”
Also included is an oil portrait of former Kansas City Mayor Robert Van Horn by George Van Millett. Bingham is represented by a lithograph of his “Martial Law” depicting Order No. 11 and an oil portrait of “Mrs. Samuel J. Platt.”
“The Kansas City Canvas”
The exhibit runs through June 8; it’s free. It can be viewed only on tours, which run on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.