In the House: Thomas Hart Benton's Achelous and Hercules

Henry Adams
Henry Adams, one of the country’s preeminent authorities on Thomas Hart Benton, looks at the history of Benton’s bold, 22-foot-long mural “Achelous and Hercules,” which once adorned Kansas City’s downtown Harzfeld’s Department Store. A full-size reproduction now hangs in the Central Library.
Wednesday, April 19, 2017
6:30 pm
The Kansas City Public Library has revived a colorful slice of downtown history, recently unveiling a reproduction of Thomas Hart Benton’s sprawling mural Achelous and Hercules. On display outside the Central Library’s Genevieve Guldner Gallery, it returns an image that adorned Harzfeld’s Department Store before the business closed in 1984. The original now hangs in the Smithsonian.
The painting depicts the mythic battle between Achelous, the Greek god of rivers in the form of an angry bull, and a shirtless Hercules, and was created by Benton a little more than a decade after he settled in KC in 1935. Henry Adams, one of the country’s preeminent Benton scholars, discusses the boldly drawn work and its Kansas City-infused backstory.
Adams is a professor of art history at Case Western Reserve University.