I’m secure enough to admit that before this morning I’d never laid eyes on Thomas Hart Benton‘s “Hollywood,” which he painted in 1937. I’m fairly ignorant about the history of 20th Century art in this country. I’m a peon, really. The only thing I’ve read that’s really stayed in my head is Tom Wolfe‘s The Painted Word, a brilliant dissection of the modern art movement from the 1920s to roughly 1974.

From Benton’s Wiki page: “Benton taught at the Art Students League of New York from 1926 to 1935 and at the Kansas City Art Institute from 1935 to 1941. His most famous student, Jackson Pollock, whom he mentored in the Art Students League, would go on to found the Abstract Expressionist movement — wildly different from Benton’s own style.

“Pollock often said that Benton’s traditional teachings gave him something to rebel against. However, art scholars have recognized the Pollock’s organizational principles continued to follow Benton’s teachings even after his move away from realism, with forms composed around a central vertical pole with each form counterbalanced by an equal and opposite form.

“Benton’s students in New York and Kansas City included many painters who would make significant contributions to American art. Benton also taught the photographer and filmmaker Dennis Hopper briefly at the Kansas City Art Institute.

“In 1941, Benton was dismissed from the Art Institute after calling the typical art museum ‘a graveyard run by a pretty boy with delicate wrists and a swing in his gait’ with further disparaging references to, as he claimed, the excessive influence of homosexuals in the art world.”