A Critique of Cradling Wheat
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A Critique of Cradling Wheat
Often times people tend to look at a work of art and only see a
picture. Later, if one looks closer a clear message or meaning is
depicted by the artist. Thomas Hart Bentonís 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 field threshing and bundling wheat. Benton draws the
viewers eye forward by placing the characters in the foreground of
the work and the surrounding landscape in the back. Here, the
American artist presents the focal point he intended. The faces 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 hired hands. 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 be wearing
uniforms. Perhaps the artist feels that most farm hands were
no-named and insignificant and expresses his opinion by giving
them these characteristics. Assumable is the fact that the
painting depicts times before electricity and the invention of
motors because the men are using hand tools to cut 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 to life. While the texture of the wheat is definite, it is
also soft, creating the effect of a light breeze in the Midwestern
scene. The brightness of the color of the wheat also adds to the
atmosphere created by the artist. While the background sets a
certain mood, the brilliance of the wheat helps define the type of
day Benton wanted to portray-a hot, summer afternoon. In
addition to the wheat, a few small wildflowers are scattered
throughout the field. The philosophy behind the dispersed
blossoms suggests a break in the monotony of constancy. There
is a constancy of wheat and a constancy of labor and while the
clever, American artist is aiming to show the life of a farmhand, he
added the flowers to simply break up the invariability.
The secondary part of the composition, the background, does
nothing more than set the mood or atmosphere and provide a
specific landscape for the work. Closest to the focal point is a line
of trees and foliage which separates the wheat field from another
field. The use of the dark emerald vegetation emphasizes the
certainty that the scene is on an immense farm.
Behind the wild foliage is another spacial field of a light shade
of green. By adding this field, Benton implies that the farm grows
a variety of crops, but again, it chiefly adds to the landscape and
little more than that.
Following the light green field is yet another field. It appears
to be a second wheat field of a darker shade of tan. The tawny
hue of this field gives a shaded effect achieving a distant air.
While most of the background exclusively sets the scene, this
subsequent wheat field also seems to signify the vast workload
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The Wheat Field, Wheat, Thomas Hart Benton
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