“Persephone” by Thomas Hart Benton Response
Thomas Hart Benton was a born and raised American artist. He was born in Neosho, Missouri in 1889 and remained in Missouri for the majority of his life. Benton taught at the Art Students League of New York from 1926 to 1935 and returned to Missouri to teach at the Kansas City Art Institute in Missouri from 1935 to 1941. Benton’s mildly profane nude painting, Persephone, also known by its alternative title, Rape of Persephone, is said to have cost him his job at the Kansas City Art Institute. Persephone, which is now located in the permanent collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, was painted at the Kansas City Art Institute in 1938-1939 during the Regionalist art movement. Regionalism began after World War I when many American artists began to reject the modern art trends deriving from European influences. Instead, they decided rather to adopt more simplified forms depicting American urban and rural scenes. 
Benton returned to Missouri in 1924 to visit his father who was very sick. During his visit, his interests became clearer. He began to take pride in his Midwestern roots and began painting ordinary Americans in rural settings, which were not often shown in art. He desired to legitimize American history through art. Not everyone liked Benton’s work. Some thought he was too outspoken about politics and art. Many Americans, however, truly admired Benton’s work and ideas. Various organizations hired him to create public art. One of his most famous murals is A Social History of Missouri and now hangs in the state capitol in Jefferson City, Missouri.
In the beautifully kept oil glaze on canvas piece, Thomas Benton managed to Americanize the Greek myth of the kidnapping of Persephone. In the mythological story, Persephone was abducted by Hades and was imprisoned in the underworld. Her father, Zeus negotiated her release, but she was forced to return four months out of every year. During those...