Early work on loan to Benton Historic Site

benton-sketchA drawing Thomas Hart Benton created in 1907 – one of his earliest existing works – is now “at home” at the Benton home in Midtown.

Tandy Craig Wood yesterday handed over the drawing to the Benton home in the Roanoke neighborhood. She said it will be on loan to the historic site for a year, and maybe longer.

Wood said she first saw the drawing in the 1960s when she was helping her grandmother, Myrtle Irwin, clean out her attic. Wood says she looked at a drawing and immediately recognized the signature of Thomas Hart Benton.

Myrtle Irwin

Myrtle Irwin

Her grandmother told Wood that she and Benton attended the Chicago Art Institute together in 1907. The two became friends, perhaps because of their shared rural Missouri roots. Benton grew up in Neosho and Irwin was from Carthage.

When the 18-year-old Benton created the drawing for a class project, Irwin asked if she could have it.

It remained somewhat forgotten in her attic until 1972, when Benton was hired to create a mural in Joplin, Missouri. Wood allowed the drawing to be displayed in a 1973 exhibit there.

Benton State Historic Site administrator Steve Sitton calls the work an important artifact for the Benton home.

“ This is a very unique piece, as almost none of his early work survives – his parents’ home in Neosho burned in 1917. It has only been on view to the public once before, during the Benton retrospective exhibit in Joplin in 1973.”

Wood said since then, the drawing has been in various places as she’s moved around the country, but she feels like it really belongs in the Benton home, where people interested in the artist can get a close-up view.


  1. Tandy Wood says:

    Mary Jo – Thanks so much for featuring the move of this 1907 Benton pen and ink from my home to its rightful home at The Thomas Hart Benton House on Belleview. Our entire family is delighted that this early work is getting the opportunity to be hung and viewed in its creator’s former environs. The photo and copy are perfect.

    In gratitude,
    Tandy Wood

  2. Jodi Dinkins says:

    Tandy, what a lovely article. Thanks for sharing such valuable history.

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