Twenty-five years ago, artist Thomas Hart Benton put on paper the spirit of the Martha’s Vineyard Agricultural Society Livestock Show and Fair.
Now the spirit of the fair as depicted by Mr. Benton is available on cotton as well.
The Benton egg tempera from 1967, entitled The Fair, is the design on this year’s fair T-shirts and posters. The T-shirts finally became available yesterday.
“I’m sure the T-shirts are going to sell out,” said Jules Worthington, society secretary and the person who suggested the use of the Benton painting. “It’s going to be interesting to see how long they last.”
In the painting, the ferris wheel serves as the central image, towering above the West Tisbury skyline. Mr. Benton shows the agricultural hall and the clapboard town hall in the distance. The children and adults in the painting give the work a sense of life.
A gentleman wearing dungarees and suspenders walks toward the fair gate while two young children behind him play with a dog. A family emerges from a green station wagon parked in front of the gate. The mother wears a dress and straw hat, as does the daughter.
“His bailiwick was really Americana,” Mr. Worthington said of Mr. Benton. “This was perfect for him.”
Both the West Tisbury centennial committee and the agricultural society are using the Benton painting. The theme of this year’s fair is Happy Birthday West Tisbury.
Last Spring Eleanor Piacenza, related to Mr. Benton through marriage, suggested the painting for the town centennial poster. Her son Mr. Worthington thought it would also make a good fair poster.
Mrs. Piacenza secured use of the painting with the trustees of the Benton estate. She also fronted the money for printing the posters.
The Benton trustees recommended a Kansas City printer for the posters. “They made quite an effort to get everything right,” Mrs. Piacenza said of the printers, “They tell me the colors will not fade.”
The printer also assisted in preparing the design for transfer onto cloth.
“It worked beautifully,” said Marianne Neill, owner of Marianne’s screen printers, which produced the shirts.
“They are very faithful to the poster and the original,” she said.
Marianne’s obtained new framing equipment before printing the shirts, which helped in making distinct prints.