Thomas Hart Benton

Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire)
1948

On view
Floor 7

Artist
Thomas Hart Benton

Title
Poker Night (from A Streetcar Named Desire)

Date
1948

Medium
Tempera and oil on linen mounted on composition board

Dimensions
Sheet (sight): 36 × 48 in. (91.4 × 121.9 cm)

Classification
Paintings

Credit line
Mrs. Percy Uris Bequest

Accession number
85.49.2

Rights and reproductions information
© T.H. Benton and R.P. Benton Testamentary Trusts / Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Description
In 1947, Thomas Hart Benton was commissioned by Hollywood producer David O. Selznick to create an original painting based on a scene in the film version of Tennessee Williams’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, A Streetcar Named Desire. The work was a gift for Selznick’s first wife, Irene, a theatrical producer responsible for bringing the play to Broadway in the same year. Poker Night captures the sexual tension and violent undertones in the relationships between Blanche DuBois, a down-and-out Southern belle (holding up a mirror), her sister, Stella (leaning over the armchair), and Stella’s husband, the hot-tempered, childlike Stanley Kowalski (wearing a white undershirt). It documents one of the play’s most dramatic and memorable moments, when Blanche taunts a drunk and angry Stanley with her petty provocations and refined airs.