Saturday, February 8, 2014

The Fish Hatchery, Neosho

"The Fish Hatchery Neosho ~ 1912"
by Thomas Hart Benton, American painter and muralist
born in Neosho, Missouri on 15 April 1889
died in Kansas City on 19 January 1975

For the past couple of weeks, some of my friends have been playing a kind of tag - you're - it art game on facebook. Your friend names an artist and you post a painting E.g., when I received Georgia O'Keeffe, I pulled up an old favorite; and when I received Fra Anjelico, I learned something new (click here or scroll down).

I was most excited when my childhood neighbor Rebecca gave me an artist from our home town of Neosho, Missouri: Thomas Hart Benton. We grew up proud of his artwork and his famous family. Some of our friends attended Maecenas Eason Benton Elementary, named for his father, the U.S. Representative for Missouri (from 1897 - 1905). Becky and I and our siblings were just as pleased to attend Eugene Field Elementary, named for the St. Louis poet.

There are various examples of Benton's artwork around Neosho, and I was all ready to share a photograph of his ceramic tile mural on the side of the former Safeway store, across the street from Big Spring Park. Not only did we love it as kids, but I even took my kids there to see it one summer, on a family vacation:

Sam & Ben acting out the scene on the mural
on the side of the old Safeway Store
Labor Day Weekend, 2002 ~ Neosho, Missouri

However, as I got ready to post my example of Thomas Hart Benton's work, I learned that I have been mistaken all these years! This well - remembered mural is NOT by Thomas Hart Benton! It was commissioned and designed by local artist Lawrence J. “Larry” Sanchez, who had studied at the Boston Museum School of Fine Arts and won a mural-design contest sponsored by Safeway Stores. Mr. Sanchez, my apologies for the confusion!

Of course, I still admire the mural as much as ever, but I realized that in order to fulfill my art quest assignment, I would need to search further. There are so many to choose from, but I settled on "The Fish Hatchery" because if there's anything that defined our growing up in Neosho besides Thomas Hart Benton and George Washington Carver and Eugene Field and Big Spring Park and Fort Crowder and Rocketdyne . . . it was The Fish Hatchery!


I was sure that Rebecca would approve of my choice, and even though it was totally new to both of us, we immediately agreed that "The Fish Hatchery" has to be the quintessential Thomas Hart Benton painting: local artist, local watering hole, local color, local beauty, local peace of mind!

Rebecca said, "Yes. I've never seen this painting before, but I love it. So much of his work is action - oriented and masculine. This is peaceful, sweet and gently rendered, and the subject is a place I remember from so many elementary school field trips. Thank you so much for finding this."

All of our Neosho friends agreed, if you went to school in Neosho, you've certainly been on a field trip to the Fish Hatchery! It really was the perfect in - town getaway, just as Benton has portrayed it, though the painting doesn't really capture the fishy aroma, yet another memory that shall never fade!


P.S.
For a view more scenes of the good life in Neosho,
see my photo albums:
Neosho, Missouri & Few Acres

P.S.S.
Burnetta wrote to say:
"I love Thomas Hart Benton, and Steve and I visited the hatchery on a scavenger hunt for my 60th. It was an awesome birthday surprise. We also went to the largest planter."

Yes, of course! How could I have forgotten Neosho's nickname
and it's famous gigantic Flower Box!

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