American artist Thomas Hart Benton‘s epic mural America Today—a sweeping panorama of American life, celebrating the promise of modern industry and technology and the accomplishments of working people in the boom years of the 1920s—has been donated by AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The announcement was made jointly today by Thomas P. Campbell, the Museum’s Director and CEO, and Mark Pearson, AXA Equitable Chairman and CEO. Now in the hands of The MET, this historic murial can now receive the physical protection and public attention it deserves.
Benton, who died in 1975 created the ten-panel mural cycle in 1930–31 as a commission for the third-floor boardroom of the New School for Social Research in New York City. Referring to sketches he made during his travels around the U.S. in the 1920s, Benton initially executed nine of the panels, which were first seen by the public when the International-style building designed by Joseph Urban at 66 West 12th Street opened on New Year’s Day, 1931; he completed the tenth panel later. The mural cycle filled the four walls of the 30-by-22-foot boardroom. Figures of farmers, coal miners, steelworkers, architects and builders, doctors and teachers surrounded viewers, representing a cross-section of American life.