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The Cover
May 1, 2002

Spring on the Missouri

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2002;287(17):2185. doi:10.1001/jama.287.17.2185

As Missourians are fond of reminding their visitors, the painter Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) is only one of a cadre of eminent Missouri residents: Twain, Eliot, Field, Pershing, Bradley, Carver. Moreover, through his grandfather, who served 30 years as a US Senator from Missouri (its first), and his father, who served four terms in the House as a representative from Missouri, young Benton had a connection to American history and politics that began with Monroe and extended to Theodore Roosevelt. Benton's boyhood and early teens were divided between the rural setting of his native Neosho, Missouri, and the cosmopolitan setting of Washington, DC. He attended school in the capital and it was there, at the Corcoran Gallery, that he saw his first formal painting. Subsequently, he would study at the Art Institute in Chicago and at the Académie Julian in Paris. For many years he taught at the Art Students League in New York City; summers, he and his wife, Rita, stayed in Martha's Vineyard, where they maintained a home. Yet Tom Benton, as he called himself, always felt himself to be a Missourian, as much a part of the land as its sycamores and walnut trees, its limestone bluffs and summer moons. When he was bored he would go to a rugged bluff on the Missouri River a few miles out from Kansas City. There he would sit and contemplate the great curve of the river as it cut through the valley below. Or he would get into a skiff and row out to the middle of one of the many other Missouri rivers: there, as he wrote, he found "an ineffable peace, an immense quiet . . . an ultimate and proper end of life."