The New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son receives an updated retelling in this Depression-era painting by Thomas Hart Benton. In the biblical story, a headstrong young man goes out into the world to seek his fortune and falls into vice. When he returns home broken and battered, he is welcomed by his father. As an example of the limitless possibilities of forgiveness, the story has resonated for centuries. Like the Prodigal Son, Benton returned from New York to his native Missouri to teach art; however, unlike his subject, Benton’s homecoming was not as happy, as suggested in the bleak landscape and ominous atmosphere of this painting.
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