The Roaring Tigers of Art and Literature


Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) auction on October12, 2014 of 20th Century Modern Design and Fine Art

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) auction on October12, 2014 of 20th Century Modern Design and Fine Art


Thomas Hart Benton did lithographs and a painting for John Steinbeck’s ‘Grapes of Wrath’. This is huge! This puts a Literary Giant in the Benton Family Creative Tree. How could the three Rosamond biographers have missed this? Here’s a huge clue?

I am overwhelmed by the History I appear to be the Caretaker of. For this reason I am founding Royal Rosamond College, and am seeking funding.

There are two world famous artists with the last name BENTON. Thomas Hart Benton, and Christine Rosamond Benton. Not one of the three authors that were blessed by attorney Sydney Morris to publish Rosamond’s biography, put these two artists together in their lying biographies that humiliated Christine, her mothers, and her teacher.


Above is a photograph of a man humiliating one of Thomas’ works of art. People all over the world express their outrage. Wait till they read about Faulkner’s ‘Dunkin The Frog’ that was going to put into the public domain as a Rosamond. Not only is this Art Forgery, it is a direct attack on the Creative Language that Artists speak to each other with – for free!

In two of the three works of art above, we see artists who were members of the Synchromism movement. Stanton Macdonald-Wright did ‘Yin Synchrom’ in 1925, and Thomas Hart Benton did ‘The Rape of Persephone’ in 1939. Is Benton sending a message to Stanton, saying he is beholding to his influence, or, did it just turn out this way in what Carl Jung titled synchronicity? Stanton included Gloria Stuart in one of his murals. Is Stuart’s painting of a nude – with tiger – part of this messaging? Is she saying;

“Don’t leave me out, don’t forget about me – you Bohemian good ol boys!”

Royal Rosamond was a good friend of Otto Rayburne, the Ozark Historian, and appears in Vance Randolph’s ‘Ozark Folklore’. Tom’s daughter, Jessie Benton, married Folk Musician, Mel Lyman, who contacted Woodie Guthrie. Mel played in the Kweskin Jug Band. He is wearing a captain’s hat in this video.

Artist and Muralist, Jirayr Zorthian, was influenced by Thomas Hart Benton. Zorthian was given the title ‘The Last Bohemian’.  Christine and I lived with the Zorthian sisters in a commune in San Francisco, with Nancy Hamren. Then there is the Kesey Family, Thomas Pynchon and Mary Ann Tharaldsen. Jack London and George Sterling, the Carmelites, all on a Quest. Over there – Tortilla Flats.

I just found the 1960 GMC truck that John explored America in and wrote a book about ‘Travels With Charlie’. It looks like my 1972 Ford truck. John and Christine lived about tree miles from one another.

Hey, don’t forget the Miller Brothers and the Pre-Raphaelites! What’s going on with that waterfall at Woodminster. Joaquin Miller would have loved to found a college. With the passing of my good friend, Michael Harkins, I might be the caretaker of the Stackpole family legacy.

I just found a Zorthian mural that shows Charles Quint staring down – Tlaquiach and Tlalchiac?  Garth Benton would have been the man to call to fix any damage to his kindred’s mural. Garth sued his friend, Gordon Getty, for painting over his mural in their home, that was designed to be taken down.$9513986$RES

Jon Presco

President: Royal Rosamond College

Copyright 2015

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Steinbeck opened the book by describing his lifelong wanderlust and his preparations to rediscover the country he felt he had lost touch with after living in New York City and traveling in Europe for 20 years. He was 58 years old in 1960 and nearing the end of his career, but he felt that when he was writing about America and its people he “was writing of something [he] did not know about, and it seemed to [him] that in a so-called writer this is criminal” (p. 6). He bought a new GMC pickup truck and had it fitted with a custom camper-shell for his journey.


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COLUMBIA, Mo. — A community newspaper photographer’s picture of a Republican official using a Thomas Hart Benton mural as a writing backdrop went viral on Monday.

Dave Marner, the editor of the Gasconade County (Missouri) Republican, took the picture of the Missouri Republican Party’s vice chairwoman, Valinda Freed, and an unidentified man, scribbling on business cards pressed against the mural. Mr. Marner was covering a veto session at the Missouri State Capitol in Jefferson City last Wednesday when he snapped the photo.

“I was befuddled,” he said. “Who exchanges numbers on a Thomas Hart Benton mural?”

Mr. Marner shared the photo on his Facebook page Friday afternoon, and art bloggers and news organizations began to pick it up. “People from at least eight foreign countries have shared the photo,” said Mr. Marner, who has been a photojournalist for more than 30 years. “I’ve never had a photo just go ballistic like this.”

Mr. Marner described the people who viewed the photo on Facebook as “outraged and shocked.”

He said the unidentified man was using “a blue push-button type pen,” adding that Ms. Freed’s writing instrument was “unknown,” but that she used an ink pen on a business card she handed him after the event.

The mural, “A Social History of the State of Missouri,” adorns the wall of the Capitol’s House Lounge.

Jeffrey Moore, a Columbia-based specialist in the restoration of paintings, said it’s possible the card-swapping left some sort of mark.

“Chances are if you do something to the surface of a painting it leaves an impression that never goes away,” he said, adding that any damage is “probably minimal.”

In a written statement to The Kansas City Star’s The Buzz on Sunday, Ms. Freed apologized for her “completely unplanned and thoughtless act.”

“A Social History of the State of Missouri” is one of the most famous murals painted by Benton, an American Regionalist artist who traveled the state in search of authenticity for his subjects. This 13-panel narrative work, completed in 1936, was intended to captured the Missourian spirit and history. It incorporated 235 individual portraits and everyday scenes, from settlers raising a log cabin to the famous James Brothers robberies to slave mistreatment.

A state representative, Pat Conway, who is on the State Capitol Commission that cares for over 120 pieces of art inside and around the Capitol, said the incident “just should not have happened.”

“Everyone needs to understand how fragile the artwork is,” he said.

He said he is not aware of anyone on the commission hiring a professional to look at the mural since the incident.

The murals on the J. Paul Getty Museum’s garden walls have been seen by millions of visitors since the Malibu institution opened 20 years ago. But who knew that the artist who painted–and is now restoring–the realistic likenesses of columns, garlands and still-life arrangements is Garth Benton, a third cousin of Thomas Hart Benton? The 53-year-old artist never met his famous relative, an American regionalist painter who rejected modern abstraction and championed a muscular style of realism until his death in 1975. But the younger Benton was turned on to art at the age of 8 when he saw a book of his relative’s paintings, and he occasionally corresponded with the late artist, who spent much of his life in his home state of Missouri.

Garth Benton, a Los Angeles native who moved to Carmel in 1981, studied art at UCLA and Art Center College of Design. He found his artistic niche when he saw an 18th-Century-style mural at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.

“I was 22 at the time, and I knew that was what I wanted to do,” he says. “I’ve always loved art history, so it was perfect.”

Rather than pursue a trademark look of his own, he learned to emulate art of many different periods. “My style is not to have my own style. Instead, I assimilate characteristics of the period I’m depicting,” he says. “Here at the Getty, the murals are part of the ambience. Nobody is supposed to say they are better than the art in the musThe Getty murals are re-creations of paintings discovered in a country house near Pompeii and now in the collection of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Norman Neuerberg, a scholar of Greek and Roman antiquities, researched the motifs, which Benton executed in acrylic paint on the plaster walls.

Water damage, concrete shrinkage and seismic movement have caused cracks and flaking in the murals over the past two decades. Returning to the Getty this past summer, Benton has filled fissures and repainted damaged areas of the most elaborately decorated garden wall. During the coming year he will refurbish remaining sections.

“At the center of the dispute is Weston”s long-time agent and friend, Carol Williams, owner and director of the Photography West Gallery in Carmel, and Carmel attorney Sidney Morris, executor for the Weston estate.”

Uh-oh! Here is a Zorthian mural.

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This exhibition will document one of the most famous artist and scientist collaborations in the history of Southern California, that between artist and public personality Jirayar H. Zorthian and Caltech and Nobel Laureate physicist Richard P. Feynman. Zorthian was a Yale University-trained artist who created respected paintings, murals, and drawings throughout his life. As a mural painter his reputation became well established, with forty-two completed murals throughout the United States. His career also included forty-seven years of constructing and designing buildings and serving as an architecture and design consultant. Even though he spent many of his years living in Altadena on the edge of Los Angeles – one of the most vital centers for contemporary art in the world – his visual art was rarely shown. Zorthian’s most important artistic influences may have been on Feynman. Feynman was extremely open to exploring new areas of inquiry beyond his world-famous expertise in science. Zorthian agreed to teach Feynman to draw, and Feynman agreed to teach Zorthian physics. The scientific instruction did not continue long, but Zorthian’s influences on Feynman led to the physicist’s life-long involvement in art making. Much of Zorthian’s art had an emphasis on drawing the human figure, particularly the beautiful and frequently erotic female form. Feynman embraced the discipline and pleasures of figure drawing as well as the challenges of portraiture. This exhibition is made possible by a generous grant from the Pasadena Art Alliance. Jay Belloli, curator. On view in the Caldwell Gallery.

Stackpole was finally successful in winning a commission for Rivera; Pflueger became convinced that Rivera would be the perfect muralist for decorating the staircase wall and ceiling of the Stock Exchange Club. This was a controversial selection considering Rivera’s leftist political beliefs in contradiction to the Stock Exchange’s capitalist foundation.[20] Into the mural, Rivera painted a figure of Stackpole’s son Peter holding a model airplane.

During his stay, Rivera and his wife Frida Kahlo lived and worked at the studio, becoming in the process lifelong friends with Stackpole and Ginette. They met tennis champion Helen Wills Moody, an avid painter-hobbyist, who soon agreed to model for Rivera at the studio.[21] Neighbor Dixon saw the attention, and the American money being given to Rivera, and with etcher Frank Van Sloun organized a short-lived protest against the Communist artist. However, both Dixon and Van Sloun quickly realized that the San Francisco art world “oligarchy” who were obviously smitten with Rivera, including Stackpole’s well-connected patrons, were the same group that they themselves would need to support their own art aspirations.[10]

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When their money ran out six months later due to the market being slow, Steinbeck and Carol moved back to Pacific Grove, California, to a cottage owned by his father, on the Monterey Peninsula a few blocks outside the Monterey city limits. The elder Steinbecks gave John free housing, paper for his manuscripts, and from 1928, loans that allowed him to write without looking for work. During the Great Depression period, Steinbeck bought a small boat, and later claimed that he was able to live on the fish and crab that he gathered from the sea, as well as fresh vegetables from his garden and local farms. When that didn’t work, Steinbeck and his wife were not above getting welfare, or rarely even stealing bacon from the local produce market.[11] Whatever food they had, they would share with their friends.[11] Carol became the model for Mary Talbot in Steinbeck’s novel Cannery Row.[11]

In 1903 John Ernest Steinbeck, Sr. built a small three-room summer cottage painted reddish brown at 147 Eleventh Street in Pacific Grove, California. This house was used by the Steinbeck family as a summer vacation home. Steinbeck lived in this cottage periodically from 1930-1936 with his first wife, Carol, as he struggled to become a successful writer. He returned to the house to live at various times

The point of contention between Williams and Morris has been the sale of Weston”s entire photographic archive to an Oklahoma banker and art collector named Christian Keesee, as well as the status of ongoing print sales, and a previous publishing contract between Weston and the Photography West Gallery.”

The Grapes of Wrath, 1940
Advertising poster by 20th Century Fox for the movie, The Grapes of Wrath

Soon after John Steinbeck’s influential novel, The Grapes of Wrath, was first published in 1939, positive popular reaction to the story* impelled the Limited Editions Club** to publish its own version illustrated by the American Regionalist painter, Thomas Hart Benton. Late in the 1920s Benton had begun focusing his work on the lives and landscapes of contemporary America. The painter also began to delve into illustration art when he produced images for a Marxist history of the United States, We, the People, written by Leo Huberman. Illustration was a natural leap for Benton the painter due to his training at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the fields of illustration and newspaper cartooning.

The next illustrations Benton produced were for the publication of Mark Twain’s Tom Sawyer for the Limited Editions Club in 1939.** Benton’s illustrations for The Grapes of Wrath included full page two-color lithographs, and chapter head pieces and tail pieces in black and white—61 illustrations in total.

Like Twain’s rural Missouri boy adventure stories*** Steinbeck’s tale of Okie sharecroppers (leaving home in Sallisaw, Oklahoma for a better life in California) begins within the realm of Benton’s personal sphere, about 40 miles south from where he grew up in southwest Missouri.****  So Benton’s illustrations were focused on what was for him was a visually familiar world. The people and their plight was one Benton had witnessed and chronicled in his own drawings and paintings.









Thomas Hart Benton ((1889-1975)
Hooverville, c.  1940                                                  Title page, c. 1940
Story illustrations for John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath (New York: The Limited Edition Club, 1940)

When 20th Century-Fox sought an image to use as the focus for their promotional posters for Darryl F. Zanuck’s production of The Grapes of Wrath directed by John Ford in 1940, they hired Thomas Hart Benton to create an illustration they could incorporate into their advertising.***** Benton used a painting of one of story illustrations, Departure of the Joads, he’d created for the book.

Benton Departure ptgThomas Hart Benton ((1889-1975)
The Departure of the Joads, 1940
Advertising illustration commissioned by 20th Century Fox for poster for the movie, The Grapes of Wrath
Egg tempera and oil paint on a support
Painting in the collection of the RalphForsterMuseum, College of the Ozarks


Painted in Benton’s inimitable style, Departure shows the extended Joad family outside their Oklahoma home loading their truck with their transportable possessions. As dark and ominous as Benton’s painting appears, he also gave it a  hopeful aura in the blue over-arching sky and the pinking of the clouds as the sun sets. Back at their cabin Grandfather Joad sits next to the open door ignoring the rest of the family as he steadily resists the notion of leaving home. Notice the cut logs in the foreground of the painting and see how they set the stage and then reinforce the undulation of the land that places the front of the truck on a visible downhill slant with its headlights pointed out beyond the picture and into the future. While the advertising posters that incorporated Benton’s illustration include all of this detail, it was mostly reproduced in sepia or gray tones, and sometimes even overlaid with print. Also notice that the advertising image is flipped, as was common for a reproduced print, and faces the opposite direction of the painting.

Benton also created a series of drawn portrait images of the story’s main characters for the studio, but these were not used in the posters—other drawings based on the movie’s actors (and later photos) were created by someone else and floated on the various posters in a variety of locations and designs.

movie posterGrapes poster skinnyGrapes poster Belgium









The poster on the far right is a Belgian version. I should note that not all the advertising posters for this movie included Benton’s illustration.

But Benton’s character illustrations did not go to waste. The studio produced a souvenir program to promote the opening of the movie that included the character portrait illustrations Benton created for the film.

souvenir program

The book and movie versions of Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath quickly entered the American literary and film cannons.  Just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin had influenced the debate on slavery in the mid-19th century before the Civil War, The Grapes of Wrath focused Americans on the plight of victims of the dust bowl and the life of migrant workers. Even though in 1940 war loomed large, the American public then and ever after use the book to help understand one aspect of the struggle of life in depression era America. Thomas Hart Benton’s illustrations are a part of this history.

* The Grapes of Wrath won the National Book Award in 1939; received a Pulitzer prize in 1940; and was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in 1962 with this book cited prominently in the award.

** The Limited Editions Club, founded in 1929, focused on publishing fine editions of literature classics and a few carefully selected contemporary titles. These volumes were illustrated by leading book illustrators who hand-signed each copy of the book they illustrated for the LEC.

*** Benton would continue to produce illustrations for The Limited Editions Club including for a publication of the play, Green Grow the Lilacs, and for Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  Benton continued to created illustrations for books and even for cigarette ads for Lucky Strike.

**** a.k.a. brazen boy stories as described in previous Exploring Illustration posting “Women Who Read”,

***** See, Henry Adams, “Thomas Hart Benton’s Illustrations for The Grapes of Wrath” in San Jose Studies v. XVI, no. 1 (Winter 1990): 6-18.

****** By 1937 Norman Rockwell had already begun to produce illustration images for Hollywood movie studios to incorporate into their poster advertisements: Along Came Jones (1937); The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938); The Magnificent Ambersons (1942); The Song of Bernadette (1944); The Razor’s Edge (1946); Sampson and Delilah (1949); Cinderfella (1960); and Stagecoach (1966). Benton did one more movie poster illustration for the 1955 production of The Kentuckian produced by United Artists and directed by Burt Lancaster.  Benton made the face of the title character look like Lancaster.

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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1 Response to The Roaring Tigers of Art and Literature

  1. Reblogged this on rosamondpress and commented:

    Yesterday I made an appointment to have lunch with an artist who I have admired for four years on FB. We have never met, and I have wanted to interview her for sometime. I messaged her and said I want to talk about her family roots in Ventura, and, the one word that would describe her artist eye. She sent me this, and, all has come together in Synchronicity!

    America needs a Peace Center where people can gather and look for ways to be peaceful. I am looking at the Sawtelle Asylum for Wounded Veterans where Ralph’s statue of Pacifica can be rebuilt. Unto this sanctuary all Seekers of Peace would be welcome.

    Come! Put on your tapping shoes, and help make America great again!

    I just talked to Marilyn and she told me she used to hop the fence and swim in the Tongva Springs all the time, starting when she was eight. She lived on Armacost near Brockton Elementary school located a few blocks from Uni High. Gloria and M look like the French Actress, Madeleine Sologne, who starred in Cocteau’s movie ‘L’Éternel Retour’ The movie ‘The Titanic’ returned to the theme of Eternal Love. Artists are immortalized. I have found a stellar group of creative souls that sprang from mural in Santa Monica where Marilyn and I went to swim in the sea. These are…………my people!

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