Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire), 1948
Thomas Hart Benton
Whitney Museum of American Art, New York
Thomas Hart Benton is best known for painting scenes of rural and small-town America, but Poker Night presents an altogether different world. Benton had been commissioned by producer David O. Selznick to create a painting based on Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire for Selznick’s wife, Irene, who had produced the play’s Broadway debut in 1947. Benton’s work vividly captures the sexual tension and latent violence in the story. The scene Benton depicts is one of the play’s most dramatic moments, when Blanche, holding up the mirror, taunts a drunk and angry Stanley with her refined airs.