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    “Cradling Wheat” By Benton Essay

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    Oftentimes people tend to look at a work of art and only see a picture.

    Later, if onelooks closer a clear message or meaning is depicted by the artist. Thomas HartBentons work, Cradling Wheat, for example is just a picture at first glance,but as one examines the painting closer, the story behind it becomes evident. This tempera and oil on board composition illustrates four men in a fieldthreshing and bundling wheat. Benton draws the viewers eye forward by placingthe characters in the foreground of the work and the surrounding landscape inthe back.

    Here, the American artist presents the focal point he intended. Thefaces of the men in the piece are all hidden by hats, distance, or turned backs. By hiding their faces the conclusion can be drawn that these men are hiredhands. Benton emphasizes the type of men by presenting them in similar clothing.

    All dressed in charcoal trousers and sky-blue work shirts, they appear to bewearing uniforms. Perhaps the artist feels that most farm hands were no-namedand insignificant and expresses his opinion by giving them thesecharacteristics. Assumable is the fact that the painting depicts times beforeelectricity and the invention of motors because the men are using hand tools tocut and bundle the wheat. Included in the focal point, of course, is the wheat. Benton combines texture and a vivid shade of tan to bring the wheat field tolife.

    While the texture of the wheat is definite, it is also soft, creating theeffect of a light breeze in the Midwestern scene. The brightness of the color ofthe wheat also adds to the 3 atmosphere created by the artist. While thebackground sets a certain mood, the brilliance of the wheat helps define thetype of day Benton wanted to portray-a hot, summer afternoon. In addition to thewheat, a few small wildflowers are scattered throughout the field. Thephilosophy behind the dispersed blossoms suggests a break in the monotony ofconstancy.

    There is a constancy of wheat and a constancy of labor and while theclever, American artist is aiming to show the life of a farmhand, he added theflowers to simply break up the invariability. The secondary part of thecomposition, the background, does nothing more than set the mood or atmosphereand provide a specific landscape for the work. Closest to the focal point is aline of trees and foliage which separates the wheat field from another field. The use of the dark emerald vegetation emphasizes the certainty that the sceneis on an immense farm. Behind the wild foliage is another spacial field of alight shade of green. By adding this field, Benton implies that the farm grows avariety of crops, but again, it chiefly adds to the landscape and little morethan that.

    Following the light green field is yet another field. It appears tobe a second wheat field of a darker shade of tan. The tawny hue of this fieldgives a shaded effect achieving a distant air. While most of the backgroundexclusively sets the scene, this subsequent wheat field also seems to signifythe vast workload.Arts and Painting

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