Circle Auction to sell the Campanella Collection
113 Original Works by Thomas Hart Benton
By Circle Auction | Oct 2023
The Campanella Collection: A Pivotal Chronicle of Thomas Hart Benton’s Artistic Journey:
This December, art enthusiasts and collectors will have the opportunity to own a piece of Kansas City art history as the Campanella Collection, a trove of 113 original works by Thomas Hart Benton, comes to auction. Notably authenticated and documented by Dr. Henry Adams, the distinguished Benton scholar and author, this collection represents a pivotal chronicle of Benton’s prolific career.
Henry Adams and The Campanella Collection:
In the summer of 2007, Henry Adams was invited to examine a remarkable assemblage of artworks. What he encountered was a comprehensive visual narrative of Benton’s evolution as an artist. As Adams put it, “This collection of works by Thomas Hart Benton, assembled by Vincent Campanella, is the single largest collection of Benton drawings and studies outside of the Benton Trust.” The collection offers an unparalleled window into nearly six decades of Benton’s artistic endeavors, from 1917 to his final year.
Variety of the Benton Collection:
The Campanella Collection stands apart in its diversity, showcasing Benton’s stylistic transitions from his early experiments with Synchromism to the mature Regionalist style that earned him national acclaim. Unlike other significant Benton compilations, such as the one housed at the University of Indiana, the Campanella Collection is not confined to a single project. Instead, it spans a vast array of subjects and styles, making it an invaluable record of Benton’s artistic metamorphosis. According to Adams “No other body of Benton’s work, in a single place, provides such a varied record of his changes of subject matter and style.”
Thomas Hart Benton & Vincent Campanella – A Complicated Friendship:
What makes the collection even more unique is its backstory—a tale of two artists. Vincent Campanella was not just a collector; he was also Benton’s friend and critic. Their relationship began in Kansas City in 1949, when Benton was a local celebrity and Campanella was a younger artist with a strong classical training. Over time, despite periods of strain and distance, their friendship rekindled, surviving even the seismic shifts in the art world, from Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism. Their relationship, oscillating between collaboration and contention, provides a fascinating backdrop to the collection.
Thomas Hart Benton’s Last Mural:
In the early winter of 1975, Thomas Hart Benton passed away unexpectedly, leaving his current mural project “The Sources of Country Music” unfinished. Rita Benton reached out to longtime friend Vincent Campanella with the request to finish the mural. It is likely that a large portion of the collection was gifted to the Campanellas in return for this work on the mural.
Documenting The Campanella Collection:
The narrative of this unique assembly of works is further enriched by Dr. Henry Adams’ essay, which delves into the intricate bond shared by Benton and Campanella. It chronicles their initial encounters, their intertwined lives in Kansas City, and the eventual rift that distanced them, only to converge again in the twilight of Benton’s life. The essay also delves into Vincent Campanella’s reflections in the Ken Burns documentary on Benton, years later. Far from being a mere provenance documentation, Adams’ essay is an essential accompaniment to the collection. (A copy will be provided to all winning bidders.)
The entire collection will be cataloged online and open for pre-bidding Nov. 4th. Final bidding starts Saturday Dec. 2nd.
There will be an open house preview of the entire collection in late November.
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