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Un Poco Loco

There's really nothing quite so effective as placing a price tag on an objet d'art, to bring similar items out of the lofts, cupboards and garage undercrofts of the nation. And sure enough, no sooner had we gone to press on the Thomas Hart Bentbone story than we were inundated with letters from readers who believed they had discovered a missing Bentbone "which had hitherto lain un-molested amongst Great Aunt Broadbottom's knickknacks since her death in a pleasure-boat incident at Branscombe Beach 50 years ago".


In such circumstances, most of the miraculous finds turn out to be nothing more than reproduction tat offered opportunistically by importunate owners hoping against hope that what they had always thought of as worthless is, in fact, their ticket to a life of Riley [whoever he/she/it might have been]. Only rarely does a genuine long-lost masterpiece surface. The odds, say Dorset Casino, are roughly 20,000:1. So it was with some scepticism that we returned the call of a Mrs AJT of Great Heaving who claimed to have, hiding in plain sight, a Bentbone from his naive mechanical period which, she assured us a Spanish houseguest had identified behind some old curtains whilst playing a desultory round of "hide the sausage in the flaps" late on New Year's Day.


Having established that Mrs AJT was a serious-minded woman of a certain age, we took along Bentbone authority Pru Venance to give it and its owner the once-over. To our great surprise and delight, Pru was immediately convinced of the painting's worth, identifying it as a missing, long-thought destroyed Bentbone known as The Professor Goes Loco. It dates from 1965.


Professor Thrupiece, a train and some cows; better known as The Professor Goes Loco by Thomas Hart Bentbone

Ms Venance writes:


It is hard to contain one's excitement when confronted with the raw energy and sheer artistic fervour of the piece - a work I had not thought I would ever encounter in the flesh [or even with my clothes on]. Reports of its first showing - in Arkansas in 1965 - suggested it was a tremendous piece and they were not wrong. It combines the literal with the metaphorical, the serious with the playful and the representative with the aphoristic. Technically it is a triumph of sophisticated naivety - hence its classification as a work of the artist's naive mechanical period.


She goes on [and on and on] ...


Likening Professor Thrupiece to a steam locomotive in this way is a powerful - even transformative - conjuncture. It is an image not only of an engine and of a man, but a symbolic representation of huge - even monumental - physical and emotional power. It is also suggestive of both a great moral certainty and an intellectual force of unstoppable vitality. We are, it would seem, being invited to make the comparison - an imaginative anthropomorphic leap as it were - between the engine which opened up a whole nation's landscape thereby pushing the frontiers of what had been experienced and the Professor who opened up a whole nation's consciousness, expanding the boundaries of what could be known. Man and engine become - indivisibly - one and the same, a collision of elemental forces carrying all - as well as the unmistakable stamp of destiny - before them. Half landscape, half portrait, half Grimm fairytale and half Greek tragedy, it is, simply, astonishing and quite unlike anything else he painted - apart of course from the 20 or so similar canvasses from about the same time.


And the cows? "Probably representative of a few of the women the Professor met in Little Rock bars. The Professor was generally known to be more the inquisitive than the choosy type".


 

STOP PRESS


When Bentbones come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.


No sooner had the ink dried on our recent post regarding a further Bentbone discovery, than we were informed of .... a further Bentbone discovery.


Deputy CEO of the Threadbone Corporation Mr Royston Binstock writes:


"On Friday last, I was rooting around in my fiance's drawers looking for something to give me a lift over the weekend, when I chanced upon an object wrapped in plain brown paper. Assuming it to be the Stringbonefellows Annual Calendar and Novelty Pull Out I gave her for Christmas last year but which mysteriously failed to make a reappearance at any point in 2019, I peeled back the covering material. To my astonishment, I there revealed an original Bentbone in pristine condition. A quick telephone call to a friend in the trade suggested it was "The Professor and the Showgirl" - yet another missing Bentbone painted by the artist when he visited the Professor on set in Hollywood. It is sometimes forgotten [not on this website it isn't [Ed]] that in addition to being involved in the US Space Programme, the Professor was also an upcoming movie-star with The Sound of Brian only recently behind him. The Professor and the Showgirl was to be his big US breakthrough film, though it didn't quite happen [that's another story [Ed]] and so the painting commemorating what turned out to be something of a career mis-turn was probably deliberately suppressed. I suspect it was brought back to England by the Professor himself who may have had reason to hide it from one or other of his later companions."


The Professor, who was, in fact, the main star of the film, is caught taking a break. Always inquisitive he was as keen to understand the mechanics of film making as he was to make acting history. Here he is captured coming to grips with Foley editing, though his palpable look of astonishment may be less to do with the intricacies of the editing process than his cognisance of the clearly exposed breasts of the young lady in front of him.

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