Tom and Jack
The Intertwined Lives of Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock
By Henry Adams
(Bloomsbury Press, Hardcover, 9781596914209, 416pp.)
Publication Date: November 24, 2009
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A groundbreaking portrait of the intense personal and artistic relationship between Thomas Hart Benton and Jackson Pollock, revealing how their friendship changed American art.The drip paintings of Jackson Pollock, trailblazing Abstract Expressionist, appear to be the polar opposite of Thomas Hart Benton’s highly figurative Americana. Yet the two men had a close and highly charged relationship dating from Pollock’s days as a student under Benton. Pollock’s first and only formal training came from Benton, and the older man soon became a surrogate father to Pollock. In true Oedipal fashion, Pollock even fell in love with Benton’s wife. Pollock later broke away from his mentor artistically, rocketing to superstardom with his stunning drip compositions. But he never lost touch with Benton or his ideas—in fact, his breakthrough abstractions reveal a strong debt to Benton’s teachings. I n an epic story that ranges from the cafés and salons of Gertrude Stein’s Paris to the highways of the American West, Henry Adams, acclaimed author of Eakins Revealed, unfolds a poignant personal drama that provides new insights into two of the greatest artists of the twentieth century.
Henry Adams has been singled out by Art News as one of the foremost experts on American painting, and his most recent book, Eakins Revealed, has revolutionized studies of Thomas Eakins, another icon of American art. He collaborated with Ken Burns on a documentary on Benton, which was watched by 20 million viewers on PBS. He is a professor of American art at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.