Behind the Exhibit: Mark Twain and Tom Benton (Video)

One of the greatest artistic collaborations in Missouri history is on display right now at the Central Library. Our exhibit Mark Twain and Tom Benton: Pictures, Prose, and Song features illustrations Benton made for three limited edition Twain novels, along with lithographs by Benton, a record album, first edition Twain books, and portraits of both men.

The exhibit’s contents are owned by The State Historical Society of Missouri. The Society’s Arts Curator, Joan Stack, designed the exhibit it in 2010 for the centennial of Twain’s death.

This elegant, historically rich exhibit shows illustrations by Benton that were commissioned for three Twain books published by the Limited Editions Club of New York in the ‘30s and ‘40s: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Adventures of Huck Finn, and Life on the Mississippi.

In the video below, Stack discusses the exhibit, noting in particular the differences between Benton’s lyrical and deceptively simple illustrations and the more formal illustrations that accompanied the 19th-century first editions of Twain’s novels. She also talks about how both writer and artist were groundbreaking in their respective eras and fields for drawing inspiration from their home state of Missouri, its landscape, and its people.

  • Dr. Stack returns to the Library on Sunday, September 18, 2011, for a free 2 p.m. lecture in the Missouri Valley Speakers Series titled “Thomas Hart Benton on Tom Sawyer: Re-envisioning Twain in the 20th Century.” Please RSVP to attend.

Mark Twain and Tom Benton: Pictures, Prose, and Song is on display through October 30, 2011, in the Guldner Gallery at the Central Library (14 W. 10th St.). Library staff will be on hand to answer questions.

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About the Author

Jason Harper is the web content guy at the Kansas City Public Library. A former journalist, he has been tweeting, Facebooking, blogging, and YouTubing for the Library since 2010.