Skip to Content
Closed today, next open tomorrow. Closed today, next open tomorrow.

Cotton Pickers

A work made of oil on canvas.
© T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trust / UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Image actions

  • A work made of oil on canvas.




Thomas Hart Benton (American, 1889–1975)

About this artwork

Thomas Hart Benton first saw laborers cultivating cotton on a trip to Georgia in the late 1920s, and he returned to the subject in this painting in 1945. In Cotton Pickers, the artist rendered the figures with a sinuous, curvilinear style to articulate the exertion of their movement along the landscape. Cotton sharecropping, a system of tenant farming that developed after the Civil War, allowed landowners to rent land to poor farmers in return for a portion of the crops. Because the practice kept agricultural workers impoverished, it became a symbol of a racially and economically unjust system. Benton’s vision of modernism was firmly rooted in figuration. He often explored themes of US history, centering African Americans in those shared narratives.


On View, Gallery 263


Arts of the Americas


Thomas Hart Benton


Cotton Pickers


United States (Artist's nationality:)

Date  Dates are not always precisely known, but the Art Institute strives to present this information as consistently and legibly as possible. Dates may be represented as a range that spans decades, centuries, dynasties, or periods and may include qualifiers such as c. (circa) or BCE.



Oil on canvas


81.3 × 121.9 cm (32 × 48 in.)

Credit Line

Prior bequest of Alexander Stewart; Centennial Major Acquisitions Income and Wesley M. Dixon Jr. funds; Roger and J. Peter McCormick Endowments; prior acquisition of the George F. Harding Collection and Cyrus H. McCormick Fund; Quinn E. Delaney, American Art Sales Proceeds, Alyce and Edwin DeCosta and Walter E. Heller Foundation, and Goodman funds; prior bequest of Arthur Rubloff; Estate of Walter Aitken; Ada Turnbull Hertle and Mary and Leigh Block Endowment funds; prior acquisition of Mr. and Mrs. Frank G. Logan Purchase Prize; Marian and Samuel Klasstorner and Laura T. Magnuson Acquisition funds; prior acquisition of Friends of American Art Collection; Wirt D. Walker Trust; Jay W. McGreevy Endowment; Cyrus Hall McCormick Fund; Samuel A. Marx Purchase Fund for Major Acquisitions; Maurice D. Galleher Endowment; Alfred and May Tiefenbronner Memorial, Dr. Julian Archie, Gladys N. Anderson, and Simeon B. Williams funds; Capital Campaign General Acquisitions Endowment, and Benjamin Argile Memorial Fund

Reference Number



© T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trust / UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

Extended information about this artwork

Object information is a work in progress and may be updated as new research findings emerge. To help improve this record, please email . Information about image downloads and licensing is available here.


Sign up for our enewsletter to receive updates.

Learn more

Image actions