“The Sources of Country Music,” the iconic painting that serves as the centerpiece of the Country Music Hall of Fame’s Rotunda, recently turned 50. To celebrate, the Hall of Fame and Museum opened a new exhibition this week dedicated to its artist Thomas Hart Benton‘s process.
The opening of “An American Masterwork: Thomas Hart Benton’s ‘Sources of Country Music’ at 50” was minted with a reception at the Museum earlier this week. Participants in Nashville’s music and art scenes gathered for a first look.
“Sources of Country Music” was Benton’s final painting before he died in early 1975. Benton was a leader in American Regionalism, a modern art movement that featured realistic scenes of the nation’s rural and small-town heartland. Its commissioning was supported by grants from the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Benton was approached about painting the now iconic mural for the museum in 1973. To create it, he channeled his lifelong passion for country music, and reflected on the wide-ranging cultural contributors to the musical genre. Benton passed away on Jan. 19, 1975, in his Kansas City studio, having placed the finishing touches on this museum commission and while he sat evaluating his work. The completed six-foot by ten-foot mural is a synthesis of the artist, country music subject matter and the museum’s educational mission.
The exhibit, which is now open through January 2025, includes Benton’s sketches, drawings, preliminary paintings and his clay maquette (three-dimensional model), which were created as part of Benton’s process of realizing “The Sources of Country Music” mural. It also features a 1975 video of Benton speaking about the painting.
On April 13 at 2:30 p.m., the museum will host a 90-minute program on “The Sources of Country Music” in partnership with the Frist Art Museum. Panelists will provide insightful interpretation of the painting and discuss Benton’s technique and background, as well as the story behind the commissioning of the mural for the museum.
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