Art: Grass-Roots Giant

"His work didn't mean anything to me. But he did exactly what he wanted to do, every day for 85 years, and how many of us can claim that much?" In its way, that young Manhattan artist's comment on Thomas Hart Benton, who died of heart disease in his studio in Kansas City, Mo., last week, was not a bad epitaph. In the course of a career that spanned seven decades (from his first job as cartoonist for a local paper in Joplin), Benton became the most popular 20th century American artist. His belligerently...

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