MEMPHIS, TN.- The Brooks Museum of Art will host Thomas Hart Benton : Train Wrecks and Hillbilly Songs through September 2, 2007. This exhibition unites two major train paintings from Tennessee collections by Thomas Hart Benton: the Brooks Museum's Engineer's Dream and the Hunter Museum of American Art's Wreck of the Ole '97. Both paintings are based on folk songs, and this exhibition places them within the context of the songs and railroad legends that inspired them.
An avid collector of folk music, Benton , like many others, felt it was an important aspect of traditional American life. And what could be more American than the locomotive? Trains fascinated Benton and he made them the subjects of numerous paintings and prints. "My first pictures were of railroad trains," Benton wrote, "Engines were the most impressive things that came into my childhood...[They] gave me a feeling of stupendous drama, which I have not lost to this day."
Benton helped to form the naturalistic and representational style of work, known today as Regionalism, by depicting themes that were common to the rural Mid-West. He and others strove to create an American art that celebrated the people, history, and folklore of our country. The Regionalists created nostalgic and provoking works whose subject matter is accessible to the everyday viewer.
This exhibition is paired with an ancillary show entitled, "All Aboard...!" that includes train images by other artists from the Brooks, the Hunter Museum , and a private collection. Train Wrecks and Hillbilly Songs was curated by the Brooks Museum's Karleen Gardner, the Curator of Education, in collaboration with Ellen Simak, Chief Curator at the Hunter Museum of American Art.