Born in Missouri, Thomas Hart Benton’s childhood was shaped by discussions of Mid-Western ideals. In 1908 he moved to Paris to study at the Academie Julien, where he was influenced by Cubism and by the distorted and elongated figures in El Greco’s paintings. He returned to the United States and soon became a central figure in the American Regionalist movement, along with Grant Wood and John Steuart Curry.
The image found in this lithograph comes from Benton’s mural The Social History of the State of Missouri. It depicts the legend of Frankie and Johnny, a St. Louis couple in the 1880’s. In this scene, Frankie discovers her husband Johnny with another woman and fatally shoots him. The legend is not only immortalized by Benton, but also in a folk song of the same title.