Brown Button’s Auction Service Tapped to Sell Original Thomas Hart Benton Collection

Brown Button’s sister company, Circle Auction, is in the middle of working on one of our most exciting projects ever. In November 2023, Circle will be offering The Campanella Collection at auction, comprised of 118 original works by Kansas City’s own Thomas Hart Benton.

Authenticated and documented by the renowned Benton scholar and author, Dr. Henry Adams, this collection would be the largest group of original Benton pieces ever to come to auction at one time.

The Genesis of The Campanella Collection:

Back in the summer of 2007, Henry Adams was presented with the opportunity to examine an extraordinary collection of artworks. What he discovered was a comprehensive visual chronicle of Benton’s artistic evolution. As Adams describes, “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.” This collection offers a unique glimpse into nearly six decades of Benton’s creative journey, from 1917 to his final year.

The Diverse Range of The Campanella Collection:

The Campanella Collection distinguishes itself with its variety, illustrating Benton’s stylistic shifts from his initial Synchromism experiments to the mature Regionalist style that brought him nationwide recognition. Unlike other major Benton collections, such as that at the University of Indiana, the Campanella Collection is not limited to a single project. It encompasses a wide range of subjects and styles, thereby serving as an invaluable testament to Benton’s artistic transformation. According to Adams, “No other body of Benton’s work, in a single location, provides such a varied record of his changes of subject matter and style.”

Thomas Hart Benton & Vincent Campanella – A Complex Relationship:

The collection’s unique allure is further enhanced by the personal story it encapsulates—the saga of two artists. Vincent Campanella was more than a collector; he was Benton’s friend and critic. Their rapport commenced in Kansas City in 1949, with Benton as the local luminary and Campanella as the classically trained emerging artist. Despite periods of tension and separation, their friendship endured, withstanding the art world’s tectonic shifts from Regionalism to Abstract Expressionism. Their dynamic, marked by collaboration and conflict, adds a compelling dimension to the collection.

Thomas Hart Benton’s Final Mural:

In the winter of 1975, Thomas Hart Benton passed away unexpectedly, leaving his mural, “The Sources of Country Music,” unfinished. Rita Benton approached Vincent Campanella, requesting him to complete the mural. It is believed that a significant portion of the collection was gifted to the Campanellas in gratitude for this work.

Documenting The Campanella Collection:

The narrative of this assembly of works is enriched by Dr. Henry Adams’ insightful essay, which explores the intricate bond between Benton and Campanella. It narrates their initial interactions, their intertwined lives in Kansas City, and the eventual rift that distanced them, only to reunite in the later years of Benton’s life. The essay also examines Vincent Campanella’s thoughts in the Ken Burns documentary on Benton, years later. Adams’ essay is not just a documentation of provenance; it is an integral component of the collection, providing context and depth. (A copy will be provided to all winning bidders.)

The entire collection will be cataloged online and open for pre-bidding starting Nov. 4th. The final bidding will commence on Saturday, Dec. 2nd.

There will be an open house preview of the entire collection in late November.

Explore photographs of the entire collection here.

At Brown Button Estate Sales, we’re thrilled to share this monumental occasion with our community and invite you to partake in this celebration of Kansas City’s rich artistic legacy through the Campanella Collection at Circle Auction.

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