Cotton Pickers

An older woman is depicted with a metal pail and bucket to be providing water to a man on his knees. A small naked child sleeps under a makeshift tent. Cotten pickers can be seen in the background as well as a small house.
© T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trust / UMB Bank Trustee/Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY

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  • An older woman is depicted with a metal pail and bucket to be providing water to a man on his knees. A small naked child sleeps under a makeshift tent. Cotten pickers can be seen in the background as well as a small house.

Date:

1945

Artist:

Thomas Hart Benton
American, 1889–1975

About this artwork

The American Regionalist Thomas Hart Benton painted Cotton Pickers based on notes of a trip he made to Georgia in the late 1920s. He depicted the dignity of the cotton pickers in the face of backbreaking labor and intense summer heat, rendering the dry fields and the working bodies in a sinuous, curvilinear style. Benton held progressive views on race, social relations, and politics, and he believed ardently that African American history was central to the understanding of American culture. Cotton sharecropping, an agricultural system that developed after the Civil War, allowed landowners to rent land to poor farmers in return for a share of the crops. Because sharecropping kept agricultural laborers impoverished, it became a symbol of a racially and economically unjust system. Cotton cultivation became one of Benton’s most important subjects, especially as the rapid industrialization of the nation during World War II changed the American landscape.

On View

American Art, Gallery 263

Artist

Thomas Hart Benton

Title

Cotton Pickers

Origin

United States

Date

1945

Medium

Oil on canvas

Dimensions

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

2013.4

Copyright

© 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 .

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