Jo Mielziner and Thomas Hart Benton

Jo Mielziner

He was a a theatre set designer active from the 1920s through to the 1970s. He worked on so many famous stage shows, such as Death of a Salesman, Guys and Dolls, The Glass Menagerie, and South Pacific. What I found even more interesting was that, during WWI he worked for the United States Air Force as a camouflage specialist, until he was transferred to a different division. Overall, he was celebrated as one of the best and most influential set designers in the industry; his work featured in more than 200 different productions. On top of that “Mielziner won five Tony Awards, eight Pulitzer Prizes, and one Academy Award for his colour art direction of the 1955 film Picnic”. It’s sad to say that he actually died while doing something he loved. On his way between meeting locations for the latest show he was working on, just before his 75th birthday, he died in a taxi in New York City.

Thomas Hart Benton

Meanwhile, Benton was an American painter/muralist who lived from 1889 to 1975. He was well-known for being a part of the Regionalist movement – an American art movement that depicted scenery of small-town rural areas, primarily the mid-western and southern States. Although he was being pushed toward politics by his father, his mother encouraged his interest in art.

Again, what I found most interesting about him, even as an artist, was the time he spent throughout World War I – a lot of talent was used during the war, not just as fighters but for so many other roles I hadn’t really known about. I pulled this directly from Wikipedia, but I think it’s important to see how much the war actually effected his artistic style afterwards:

“He was directed to make drawings and illustrations of shipyard work and life, and this requirement for realistic documentation strongly affected his later style. Later in the war, classified as a “camoufleur,” Benton drew the camouflaged ships that entered Norfolk harbour. His work was required for several reasons: to ensure that U.S. ship painters were correctly applying the camouflage schemes, to aid in identifying U.S. ships that might later be lost, and to have records of the ship camouflage of other Allied navies. Benton later said that his work for the Navy “was the most important thing, so far, I had ever done for myself as an artist.”

I found his artwork to be extremely colourful and thematic (obviously), but primarily consisting of strong shapes/lines. He was… controversial in his conversation about art and other artists in the community of his time. He depicted the KKK without any regard for backlash, he insulted his superiors during his time teaching at the Kansas City Art Institute, and he segregated himself from his peers either through his political opinions of country-oriented murals.

In any case, he was honoured and acknowledged to be an extreme talent and continued his mural works until the day he passed away in his studio, completing his final mural.

Posted in VFX

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