It's National Curmudgeon's Day

It's National Curmudgeon's Day

Today's holiday honors those who "apply the needle of truth of the balloons of hypocrisy." It is celebrated every year on the birthday of W.C. Fields, a comic genius from the Golden Age of Hollywood known for hating children, dogs and all things nice. He was so fond of drinking, as the story goes, he once stood on a street corner and 43 cars pulled up to wait for his nose to turn green.

To nominate just one artist in the Chrysler Collection for a curmudgeon label, we present Thomas Hart Benton. Where Fields' on-screen persona was largely an act, Benton was a prickly and opinionated painter who mellowed with age. That's what happens when you write your autobiography too early (38 years before he finished painting).

While the hard-drinking Benton eventually admitted "I was not the most desirable kind of fellow to have around," he consistently held strong beliefs on the virtue of the common man and contempt for the artistic elites. He felt pictures should be "effective in more than a decorative way," and an example of that is shown below.

Benton did this print for the Association of American Artists, an outfit that provided fine art to ordinary people during the Great Depression. The artist would get $200 for the entire series, and people could buy prints for just $5. In an irony that would raise the ire of many a curmudgeon, these affordable prints marketed to the masses are now highly prized by collectors and fetch premium prices.

Click to enlarge

SHOWN ABOVE: Thomas Hart Benton, Island Hay lithograph, ca. 1940. © Thomas Hart Benton and Rita P. Benton Testamentary Trusts / Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY. Click image to enlarge.
(This item is currently not on gallery view.)

The content of this blog was provided by the current newsletter of the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia. You will want to include the Chrysler Museum of Art on your list of places to visit in Virginia.

Amateur Photographer, Roy and Dolores Kelley Photographs

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14 commentsRoy Kelley • January 29 2015 11:09AM
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