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Spring on the Missouri (work of art)

Artwork Info

30 1/4 x 40 1/4 inches (76.8 x 102.2 centimeters)


Purchased with funds from the State of North Carolina

Object Number

Key Ideas

  • This painting shows two men evacuating a house before it becomes flooded. Their belongings are scattered, and the wagon wheels appear to be sinking into the mud. The images of lightning in the sky and the flooded house in the background create a sense of urgency in this scene.
  • This is an example of American regionalism, a modern art movement that was most popular in the 1930s. Regionalist artists created realistic scenes of rural America. 
  • Thomas Hart Benton was an American regionalist painter and muralist. A muralist is an artist who paints large-scale murals on walls.
  • When two rivers flooded a large part of southeastern Missouri in 1937, a Kansas City newspaper sent Benton to create sketches of the natural disaster. This painting is based on one of his sketches.

Learn More

Between the Great Depression and the end of World War II, Thomas Hart Benton painted scenes of farming and industrial labor in rural parts of the country. In the winter of 1937, the Mississippi River and the St. Francis River flooded a large part of southeastern Missouri. The Kansas City Star sent Benton to sketch the aftermath of the flood. He used one of his sketches as a reference to paint Spring on the Missouri eight years later.

Early in his career, Benton became known for painting large murals. He often depicted his political opinions in his murals, and this made some people angry. By the mid 1930s, he had shifted away from political commentary in his art. He focused more on creating regionalist paintings. American regionalist art depicts realistic scenes of rural areas and small towns (generally in the Midwest).  

The original owner of this painting was Arthur “Harpo” Marx. He was the silent member of the American family comedy act known as the Marx Brothers.

Tags: lightning, American art, weather, document, midwest, narrative

Additional Resources

Resources for Teachers 


Resources for Students


  • A painting of a house and a wagon at the edge of floodwaters. Two men load a stove and bedding into the wagon, which is hitched to two horses facing the water. There are lightning bolts and dark clouds in the sky, and a flooded house in the background.

    Spring on the Missouri