Thomas Hart Benton’s Persephone recasts a Greek myth in a contemporary, rural guise. Beautiful Persephone was abducted by Hades, who imprisoned her in the underworld. Her father Zeus negotiated her release for all but four months of every year. During this period her mother, the harvest goddess Demeter, denied the growth of all flora, thus creating winter. Benton’s Persephone appears as a sunbathing farm girl. Hades is shown as a lustful, aging farmer with a rickety cart for his chariot. His facial features appear similar to Benton’s own, although he used a local model. The creek-side setting suggests an arcadian landscape as well as a likely venue for skinny-dipping. Shamelessly naked, Persephone evokes Old Master female nudes in addition to modern pin-ups.


  • Title: Persephone
  • Creator: Thomas Hart Benton
  • Creator Lifespan: 1889 - 1975
  • Date Created: 1938-1939
  • Physical Dimensions: w1424 x h1832 cm (Unframed)
  • Type: Painting
  • Rights: Purchase: acquired through the generosity of the Yellow Freight System Foundation, Mrs. Herbert O. Peet, Richard J. Stern, the Doris Jones Stein Foundation, the Jacob L. and Ella C. Loose Foundation, Mr. and Mrs. Richard M. Levin, and Mr. and Mrs. Marvin Rich
  • Medium: Tempera with oil glazes on canvas, mounted on panel
  • Culture: American

Additional Items

Persephone (Supplemental)

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