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Culture (Barstow Mother's Meeting), 1935-1936

Exercise Class, ca. 1936-1936

Persephone, 1939

Do Unto Others (Instruction), 1940

Panama Hattie, 1940

Prairie Chicken, 1950


















In the fall of 1935, when she was married with two small children at home, Margot Peet enrolled in painting classes taught by the famous Regionalist painter, Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) at the Kansas City Art Institute. Although she was by far the oldest student in his classes (she was in her 30s), and came from a much wealthier background than most of Benton's pupils, Margot Peet rolled up her sleeves and worked alongside the eighteen-year-olds like a fellow craftsman-- never insisting upon special consideration.

Under Benton's guidance, Margot Peet produced her first multi-figural compositions, her first genre scenes (subjects drawn from everyday life), and her first paintings in egg tempera, a quick-drying medium using egg yolk as the binder. Benton painted in class alongside his students who produced "versions" of his subjects from slightly different angles. In 1939, Margot Peet painted a small version of Benton's famous nude, Persephone (the goddess of Springtime), which is now one of the highlights of the American painting collection at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Her painting, Do Unto Others, is a version of Benton's well-known work, Instruction, which he painted at the Art Institute in 1940.

Benton required his students to paint out-of-class assignments that were drawn from personal experience and based on sketches made from life. Margot Peet produced two such paintings -- Exercise Class and Culture. In Culture, the bored faces of the mothers border on caricature -- a skill Margot Peet developed with Benton's encouragement.


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