Brideship (Primary Title)
Colonial Brides (Alternate Title)

Thomas Hart Benton, American, 1889 - 1975 (Artist)

ca. 1927–28
Oil and egg tempera on canvas mounted on composite board
United States
Unframed: 60 3/16 × 42 1/8 in. (152.88 × 107 cm)
Framed: 9 1/4 × 50 7/8 in. (23.5 × 129.22 cm)

Long after the establishment of the United States, many Americans—including Benton—remained fascinated with the nation’s colonial beginnings. Brideship is part of the American Historical Epic—the artist’s first mural cycle, conceived in 1922 to “present a people’s history.”

The painting depicts an episode from the early 1620s when the Virginia Company shipped 147 “younge, handsome, and honestly educated Maides” from England to Jamestown to serve as brides for the lonely settlers. Newly arrived, a red-haired woman steps out on the bustling wharf and looks at a small coin in her hand. The game of chance that brought her to this new world—a metaphorical flip of the coin— appears to have cast her lot with the man at bottom left, who beckons to her with talon-like fingers. The model for the “bride” was Benton’s own wife, Rita, who contributed to the family income by making hats. Adding a humorous touch, the colonial maiden wears a fashionable chapeau of the 1920s.essentials she was able to save in the moment of crisis: a framed photograph, and a book (perhaps a Bible), a jug, and a piece of fruit.

two labels adhered to fome-cor backing: (1) "Nelson Atkins Museum of Art for ehxhibition entitled 'Thomas Hart Benton: An American Original,' 4/16/89 - 6/18/89; (2) "Martha Parrish and James Reinish 25 East 73 St. New York, NY"
Gift of R. Crosby Kemper and museum purchase, the J. Harwood and Louise B. Cochrane Fund for American Art
Tales from the Easel: Narrative Paintings from Southern Museums, The Colombus Museum, Columbus, GA, Feb 8 - April 11 2004; Tampa Museum of Art, FL, April 25 - July 11 2004; Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY, Sept 14 - Dec 12 2004; El Paso Museum of Art, TX, Jan 16 - April 10 2005

Musee des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, 1/17 - 3/31/2002; Musee des Bueax-Arts, Montipellier, 4/10 - 6/25/2002

"Made in U.S.A.: l'Art Américain, 1908-1947, Musée des Beaux-Arts, Bordeaux, Oct. 5 - Dec. 31, 2001; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Rennes, Jan. 17 - March 31, 2002; Musée des Beaux-Arts, Montpellier, April 10 - June 25, 2002

"Thomas Hart Benton: an American Original," Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts; Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1989-1990
©artist or artist’s estate

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