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Subject- American Studies

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Wreck of the Old 97

20th Century
20th Century
10 1/4 x 14 7/8 in. (26 x 37.8 cm)

Thomas Hart Benton, American, (1889–1975)

Object Type: PRINTS
Creation Place: North America
Medium and Support: Lithograph
Credit Line: Gift of Mrs. Richard Crampton
Accession Number: 91-G-3079
Label for "American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints from the 1930s and 1940s", La Salle University Art Museum, March 12- May 30, 2014:

Thomas Hart Benton was born in Missouri, studied in Chicago and Paris, and began his artistic career in New York City, where he lived and worked for over twenty years, though he is most famously associated with the American Midwest. In 1935 he returned to Missouri and accepted a teaching position at the Kansas City Art In­stitute. Benton is considered a pioneer in the Regional­ist art movement. He illustrated common scenes of rural American life, promoting a sense of nostalgic national­ism and familiar appeal to middle class Americans in the 1930s and 1940s.

Southern Railroad’s mail train no. 97 derailed while en route from Monroe, VA, to Spencer, NC, on Septem­ber 27, 1903. The event inspired balladeers and coun­try music singers. “Everybody knows the song,” Benton wrote, “cowboys sing it, people who live in the southern Appalachians sing it, as well as those who live in the Ozarks and out on the prairie farms. It has even found its way to the fishing coasts of New England.” Benton ini­tially drew the subject in 1926-27 and created the litho­graph in 1944. The artist imagines a scene in which the speeding locomotive nearly collides with horse and cart, literally contrasting the dark steam and steel of prog­ress against the pure white working animal and simple spokes of the cart’s wheels.

Rebecca Oviedo
, M.A. '16
Collections Manager/Registrar, La Salle University Art Museum

Current Location: In Storage


- American Scenes: WPA-Era Prints from the 1930s and 1940s, Curated by Klare Scarborough and Carmen Vendelin, La Salle University Art Museum, March 12- May 30, 2014.

- A Midsummer’s Dream: A Selection of Works from the Permanent Collection of the La Salle University Art Museum, La Salle University Art Museum, Summer 2004.


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